NASA’s Curiosity rover has found an unusual flower-like formation on the surface of Mars.
However, the space agency has said that the petal-shaped, pearl-colored cluster, which was spotted in an image snapped by Curiosity last month, is highly unlikely to indicate that flowers are blooming on the red planet.
The excitement over the Mars “flower” began when a user on the Above Top Secret forums highlighted an unusual, flower-like object in a snap of the Martian terrain. Alongside the rover’s snap of the “flower”, user Arken wrote:
“This amazing, extremely unusually-looking translucent object on the Martian surface is the second one detected by the Rover Curiosity. [...] The Albedo (or Reflectivity of Sun Light) of this object is very high, and its translucent appearance, the irregular conformation (like [the pistils of a flower]) and the “texture” of its wider areas is smooth, and seem that it is ground attached.”
Other forum users chipped in to suggest that the object may be quartz embedded in the rock, but Arken’s original comparison of the formation to the pistils of a flower seems to have stuck.
Back in October, Curiosity photographed what turned out to be a piece of plastic that had fallen from the rover itself. This latest object appears to be part of the Martian terrain, but NASA spokesperson Guy Webster told the New York Daily News it was unlikely to be a flower:
“[The cluster] appears to be part of the rock. I would guess that the ‘flower’ was someone’s descriptive term for its appearance, not meant as an interpretation that flowers exist on Mars.”
Meanwhile, as the buzz over Martian flowers heated up online, Curiosity spent the holidays gathering enough pictures for a 360-degree panorama of its rocky surroundings at a Martian region known as Yellowknife Bay: