NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has stumbled upon a strange-looking rock, with experts speculating that it must have fallen from outer space.
On Friday, Perseverance snapped a photo of the large, “donut-shaped” rock while driving along in the planet’s red dust.
The intriguing rock was surrounded by others of a similar shiny, blue-grey hue, suggesting they all came from the same place — one that could extend beyond Mars.
The donut rock “could be a large meteorite alongside smaller pieces”, according to representatives of California’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, who shared an image of the unusual object to Twitter.
Such a find would not be unprecedented. Perseverance spotted another potential meteorite just a few weeks after touching down on Mars in February 2021.
The discovery is just the latest in a number of dessert-themed rocks captured by NASA’s five Mars rovers.
In January 2014, the Opportunity rover spied a white stone with a red interior, prompting the mission team to call it the “jelly donut”.
Perseverance’s older cousin, Curiosity, who has roved Mars since 2012, discovered its own metallic space rock, nicknamed Cacao, in February this year.
Perseverance is on the far-flung planet exploring a 46-kilometre-wide crater called Jezero, which likely contained a huge lake and river delta billions of years ago.
The car-size rover is characterising the environment, searching for signs of long-ago (or even present-day) life on Mars and collecting samples that one day will be returned to Earth.
A tiny helicopter called Ingenuity is aiding the rover in its work. Ingenuity travelled to Mars with Perseverance and aced its flight demonstration, proving aerial exploration is possible on the Red Planet.
The 1.8-kilogram chopper is now deep into a lengthy mission, scouting out routes and scientific targets for its robot partner to study. Ingenuity has performed 51 flights on Mars so far, covering a total of 11.7 kilometres of ground.
Among the rovers’ other snaps is a sweet selfie taken by Curiosity as it welcomed Perseverance to its new home.
“Wish you were here! This selfie was taken in front of ‘Mont Mercou,’ a rock formation that’s 20ft (6m) tall,” read a post from Curiosity’s Twitter account.
“It’s made up of 60 images from my MAHLI camera and 11 images from my Mastcam. Look close enough to spot a new drill hole — my 30th sample to date.”
Originally published as ‘Donut-shaped’: NASA finds strange rock on Mars
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