The internet is all abuzz with talk of the strange shiny object that Curiosity’s found on Mars. Yep, 183.7 million miles away at the time I write this, and it’s still as easily distracted by a shiny object as I am!
Curiosity’s soil sampling shenanigans have been temporarily put on hold to investigate the whatever-it-is. Because unlike the shiny things you might find on the ground back here on Earth, this must have come from one of two places. Either it’s a martian whatever-it-is, which would be rather exciting, or it arrived with Curiosity which could potentially be rather bad.
There were some initial worries that the shiny thing may actually have been a part of the rover, which saw a number of people worrying that something may have broken during landing. Commentators have noted that it doesn’t look like a screw or a bolt, but it’s still possible it’s a shred of NASA duct tape or a shard of metal from somewhere. A closeup image of it, shown to the right here courtesy of chemcam, doesn’t really elucidate matters much. At least it doesn’t appear to be any vital component of Curiosity.
Mind you, if it isn’t from the rover, then it’s a martian shiny thing, which would be geologically very interesting indeed. Earth and Mars are made of much the same stuff, so it’s not impossible it could turn out to be a familiar mineral like galena. Several metals on Earth can also exist as “native metals” in Earth’s crust, found naturally in elemental or alloyed form. Given that the martian atmosphere is devoid of molecular oxygen to cause oxidation, it’s possible that such native metals may be more readily found on our neighbouring planet. For now, we’ll have to wait until NASA let us all know what they’ve found.
In the meantime, Twitter pundits continue to speculate…
@spannerdan2 If Curiosity is anything like me it will be an earring! : (—
Jenny Winder ★ (@astrojenny) October 09, 2012