Scientists aren’t sure what to make of these peculiar rock formations on the surface of Mars, seen above in an image recently released by NASA.
The image was captured by NASA’s Opportunity rover on a Martian outcrop called Kirkwood, and shows what appears to be a large number of strange bumps jutting out of the planet’s surface.
According to Opportunity’s principal investigator, Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., scientists initially thought the spherical objects were Martian blueberries, or spherules, which Opportunity first encountered at its landing sight in 2004.
However, upon closer inspection, these formations appear to be unique.
“This is one of the most extraordinary pictures from the whole mission,” said Squyres, “Kirkwood is chock full of a dense accumulation of these small spherical objects. Of course, we immediately thought of the blueberries, but this is something different. We never have seen such a dense accumulation of spherules in a rock outcrop on Mars.”
What’s more, these mystery bumps are “crunchy on the outside, and softer in the middle.”
“We have a wonderful geological puzzle in front of us,” said Squyres, “We have multiple working hypotheses, and we have no favorite hypothesis at this time. It’s going to take a while to work this out, so the thing to do now is keep an open mind and let the rocks do the talking.”
Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ USGS/Modesto Junior College, NASA.