Mysterious Mars Photo Captures ‘Serendipitous’ Moment

mars rover

A mysterious Mars photo led some to believe that the Curiosity Rover had discovered life on the red planet in one of its very first images. NASA, however, says it was probably just dirt.

The LA Times reports that one of the first images sent back from the Mars Curiosity Rover showed a “faint but distinctive” blotch on the horizon. On subsequent images, however, the blotch is gone.

What was that faint smoke in the distance? A martian civilization hurrying underground? A smudge of dirt on the Curiosity’s camera? A piece of the Rover crashing in the distance?

The Lookout reports that the blotch remains a mystery but NASA has a few theories.

The space organization released a “crime scene” photo of the Curiosity Rover’s landing site and believes that the smudge in the distance could be the “sky crane,” the spacecraft that flew the rover to mars, crashing to the red planet.

The LA Times writes:

“The crime scene photo showed that the sky crane had crash-landed, as designed, about 2,000 feet away—and in the same direction that Curiosity’s camera was pointed when it snapped the first photo showing the blotch. The new satellite photo also showed that the sky crane, when it crash-landed, kicked up a violent wave of dirt that had scarred the surface of Mars.”

crime scene

But according to Curiosity mission manager Michael Watkins, it’s unlikely that the Curiosity captured the sky crane in the photo.

Watkins said:

“I don’t think you can rule it out… It bears looking into. It would be incredibly cool. … A crazy, serendipitous thing.”

Emily Lakdawalla, senior editor at the Planetary Society, added:

“It’s circumstantial evidence — but it’s pretty good circumstantial evidence… It looks like we may actually have seen it, but it’s hard to know.”

Here’s the mysterious mars photo. What is the blotch on the horizon?

mars photo

Do you think the Curiosity captured the Sky Crane falling to the surface of Mars? Or is it just a spec of dirt?

When the photo was released, NASA wrote:

“It was taken through a ‘fisheye’ wide-angle lens on one of the rover’s rear left Hazard-Avoidance cameras at one-quarter of full resolution. The clear dust cover on the camera is still on in this view, and dust can be seen around its edge, along with three cover fasteners.”

You can see more photos from the mission to Mars here.