Though the couple billion-dollar Curiosity rover seems to get all the attention on the red planet these days, it’s one of the veteran rovers on Mars that captured an event that is stunning scientists and space fans alike.
The crux of the issue surrounds these photos snapped by the rover Opportunity on two different missions.
The rock perched on the ground in the right photo in the side-by-side comparison was not there before.
“It was a total surprise, we were like ‘wait a second, that wasn’t there before, it can’t be right. Oh my god! It wasn’t there before!’ We were absolutely startled,” Steve Squyres with Cornell University and working out of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab said, according to Discovery News, comparing the rock to the size of a jelly doughnut.
The news came at CalTech where scientists met this week for “10 years of roving Mars,” an event honoring the rovers Opportunity and Spirit, which is now defunct.
The two current options as to how the rock, dubbed Pinnacle Island, could have gotten there include: 1) being nearby all along and only becoming visible as the rover moved around disturbing it or, 2) it landed in this place as the result of a meteorite impact. Discovery News reported that the former theory is more likely.