NASA’s Curiosity rover has captured a photograph of an unusual structure on Mars. Astrobiologist Nathalie Cabrol has referred to the bone-like structure as the ‘most peculiar’ she has ever observed.
According to MailOnline, the images were taken by the car-sized robot’s mast camera and ChemCam on April 1st, Martian day Sol 3786, and displayed spikes emerging from a rock positioned at the foot of the 96-mile-long (154 kilometers) Gale Crater.
These images have generated online discussions regarding what the structure might be. Since August 2012, Curiosity has been exploring the Gale Crater as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission.
Possible Explanations of the Bone-like Structure
Cabrol shared a photo of the strange bone-like structure on her Twitter account with a caption that it is the most bizarre Martian she has ever seen after over 20 years of studying the Red Planet. She also shared her excitement about the possibility of having a microscopic image of the rock formation.
Aside from her, other Twitter users also commented on the rock’s strange appearance. Daily Mirror reports that one user said that the rock is so unique from other rock formations that have been photographed on Mars since the Sojourner mission in 1997.
Meanwhile, others also tried to explain what could have caused its bizarre appearance. Martin Well, another Twitter user, said that winds may have eroded the rocks over a large expanse of time, possibly for eons. Ms. Cabrol added that it looks like remains of ripples after lots of erosion.
Other guesses of the bone-like structure involve prehistoric creatures. They said that it looks like a very easy crumble of fish vertebrae, fish fossils, or some skeleton of a prehistoric animal.
Another user also commented that it would have been classified as a fossil plant, such as a fir tree branch, or fish backbone if it was found on Earth. Also, someone said it could be the back of a fossilized Martian dragon curled up in its resting place. Nonetheless, commenters agree that it is difficult to tell if it was a natural rock formation.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has been exploring the Gale Crater since August 2012 as part of the space agency’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, which aims to investigate the Martian climate and geology to prepare for future human exploration.
Bizarre Rock Formations Found on Mars
The strange bone-like structure is not the first time that the Curiosity rover has surprised scientists with its findings. Last June, MailOnline reported that the rover discovered some strange twisting structures, known as “hoodoos,” formed by cement-like substances that filled cracks in Martian bedrock. The softer rock around the hoodoos eroded over time, leaving only the twisting towers protruding from the sand in the crater.
In February 2022, the rover captured an image of a coral-like “flower” that was a microscopic mineral formation. NASA scientists confirmed that the flower was a “diagenetic crystal cluster,” which might have formed from the precipitation of minerals from water.
Scientists believe that the minerals were embedded in rock that eroded over time, but the minerals themselves were resistant to erosion and have remained on the Martian surface. The hoodoo formations and the coral-like flower are just two examples of the many strange formations the rover has captured, leaving scientists with many unanswered questions.
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