Opportunity was supposed to spend three months poking around the surface of Mars and showing us some stuff before breaking. That was ten years ago. It’s been trundling along, exploring the surface and sending us back valuable data about the Red Planet, ever since. And its latest finding might be the weirdest.
The finding in question is a “mystery rock” that just suddenly appeared in front of Opportunity. It’s been stuck in one area due to weather, so it’s been continuously photographing the area. Thus, a rock turning up where there wasn’t a rock before is pretty attention-getting. Nor is that the only odd part about the rock, according to the Independent:
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” he said. “It’s very high in sulphur, it’s very high in magnesium, it’s got twice as much manganese as we’ve ever seen in anything on Mars. I don’t know what any of this means. We’re completely confused, and everyone in the team is arguing and fighting [over what it means)].”
Currently there are two theories; that there was a meteor strike nearby that flung the rock towards Opportunity, or that it was flicked out of the ground by Opportunity’s wheels as it moved. A third theory, that there are really Martians and that they’re totally messing with us, is sadly not being entertained.
But it does illustrate that, even with years of research and reams of scientific data, we’re still surprisingly in the dark about much of Mars. Hopefully, at some point, we’ll send some people out there, maybe see what’s up. Aaaaany day now, NASA.