The Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture the set of thumbnail images stitched together to create this full-color self-portrait in this October 31, 2012 (Sol 84) handout image courtesy of NASA. (Photo : Reuters)
NASA's Curiosity Rover captured some intriguing images on Mars recently, with some of the shots showing a mysterious metal-like protrusion emerging from the surface of the Red Planet. The pictures were taken on Jan. 30 using the rover's two MastCam cameras.
Click here to see the metal-like object on Mars
NASA has yet to comment on the images, which show a "horn-like" metallic object rising out the planet's surface. While it's uncertain just what the object is, according to The Verge, theories about the identity of the protrusion include " a meteorite that landed on the planet, or a piece of ore exposed by erosion of some sort."
As you may remember, this isn't the first time the Curiosity rover has made an enigmatic discovery on the planet. In the course of the rover's missions, there's been the Mars "flower," a piece of plastic that fell off the rover itself, and "other bright flecks of granules in the Martian soil," Universe Today noted.
Italian Elisabetta Bonora, an "image editing enthusiast" for Alive Universe Images, made the new discovery while perusing Curiosity's image database, and then shared the finding with Universe Today. She notes that the strange object takes up roughly 35 pixels in the frame, which, considering the camera's resolution of 150 microns per pixel at two meters distant, and what certainly looks like good amount of distance between the rover and the protrusion, could indicate that the object is "relatively large ... up to a foot tall, even," said Universe Today.
"Science buffs have suggested the small, shiny-looking object, which makes for an incongruous sight amid the rocks, could be composed of material less susceptible to erosion than its surroundings," reported the Daily Mail.
Since the photos first emerged, Curiosity's been testing out its drill on Mars' surface.
The Mars Curiosity rover represents a breakthrough in Red Planet exploration. Previous Mars rovers, like the Spirit and Opportunity, were able to scrape off many rocks from the planet's surface, but lacked Curiosity's sophisticated analysis instruments and its deep penetrating drills, which can collect samples from below the surface. With the successful finds this month, scientists will move onto more complex missions in the future with Curiosity, including the first sampling and analysis of newly discovered Martian material.