At the beginning of the week, NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover spotted something strange on the red Martian landscape. While conducting research at Pettegrove Point, a section of Vera Rubin Ridge on Mount Sharp that the robot has been exploring for almost a year, Curiosity snapped a photo of something, err… curious clearly visible on the rocky terrain, reports CNET.
The enigmatic object, seen in the image above, looked suspiciously like a piece that might have fallen off a spacecraft and was labeled by the Curiosity team as “Pettegrove Point Foreign Object Debris.”
Photographed by the Mars rover on August 13, the thin and light-colored “foreign object” sparked concerns that the aging robot — which this month celebrated its sixth birthday, the Inquisitr previously reported — may be in a rough shape and is possibly losing parts.
But the worries have finally dissipated now that the mystery has been solved. As it turns out, the “foreign object” is anything but foreign and was eventually identified as a very flat Martian rock, notes Space.com.
The announcement came from Curiosity team member Brittney Cooper, an atmospheric scientist based at York University in Toronto, Canada. Cooper clarified everything in a NASA blog post, which records Curiosity’s adventures on the red planet one Mars solar day (Sol) at a time.
“False alarm!” the blog post begins.
“In fact, it was found to be a very thin flake of rock, so we can all rest easy tonight — Curiosity has not begun to shed its skin,” Cooper wrote on August 16 in the blog entry for Sol 2143-2144.
The case of the strange sighting was elucidated once Curiosity got a closer look at the mysterious objects by zooming in with its ChemCam.
“Perhaps the target should have been given a different name befitting the theme of the current quadrangle in which Curiosity resides: ‘Rabhadh Ceàrr,’ or ‘False Alarm’ in Scottish Gaelic,” Cooper jokingly added.
Although this time the bizarre sighting turned out to be part of the natural Martian landscape, a similar occurrence in 2012 didn’t end so well for the Mars rover. According to CNET, Curiosity halted its scooping activities after the ChemCam spotted a bright object lying on the ground, which was later identified as a piece of plastic shed from the car-sized robot.
Curiosity has been trekking the foothills of Mount Sharp, a 3.4-mile-high (5.5 kilometers) mountain inside the Gale Crater since September 2014. Last week, the rover conducted drilling operations on a Pettegrove Point target dubbed Stoer, snagging a precious drilled sample that is currently being analyzed, Curiosity team member Ashley Stroupe reported on the NASA blog earlier this week.