Image of the Day: Magical mystery Mars rock

Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech

Mars is a surprisingly dynamic place. Without much in the way of an atmosphere and no plate tectonics, there's a limit to how crazy things can get, but we do see the surface change from time to time, sculpted by seasonality, erosion, and the occasional dust devil. We're generally talking about geologic time, though, so it was quite a surprise when a sizeable rock appeared out of nowhere right in front of the Opportunity rover just a few days ago. The picture above is a before and after image of the same area: first no rock, then hey, a rock. This is, to put it mildly, somewhat odd.

There are two theories as to how this rock showed up. Theory one is the most exciting one, since it involves some meteorite impact that tossed a bunch of ejecta up into the air, a piece of which just happened to land right in front of the rover. This is unlikely, but not entirely out of the question. Theory two suggests that when the rover turned in place a few days ago, its stuck right front wheel may have accidentally kicked the rock in front of the rover, and JPL scientists suspect that this is probably what happened.

Or, theory three: there are Martians seriously messing with us right now.

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Via Discovery

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