What’s *that*..?

So, there’s a big kerfuffle going on at the moment about a shiny little ‘something’ spotted on one of the images Curiosity sent back after taking her first scoop of martian dust. It’s only small, and it doesn’t exactly jump out at you when you look for it…

…but it’s there…

Zooming in on it doesn’t help much…

But when you take one of the ChemCam images, clean it up a bit and flatten out the distortion you get a slightly clearer view…

What the heck is that?

There’s a lot of speculation on the internet (No! Really?!?! Speculation? On the internet? Wow, that’s a first…!!) about what It might be. Many people are worried that “a bit fell off the rover”, maybe having been shaken loose when that scooped-up dirt sample was vibrated to level it off, but I’m wondering if it’s a piece of thin plastic or foil from somewhere else that’s been blown here by the soft martian winds..?

Think about it. When Curiosity landed she landed softly and safely. But the *other* bits that came down through the atmosphere – the heatshield and the descent stage – came down rather less softly, smashing into the martian surface with a hell of a whump. Curiosity even saw the plume of dirt and debris which rose up into the sky after the spent descent stage hit the ground…

If you look at that descent stage…

…you can see it’s covered in lots of insulation foil, and tape, and whatever. When that mass sf metal and material slammed into Mars, a lot of that stuff must have been sent flying in all directions. Not too hard to imagine some of it flew towards Curiosity’s location, and has, in the past month, travelled across the surface, blown slowly like metallic tumbleweed across the dusty, rocky ground by the martian winds. True, the winds on Mars aren’t that strong, but there are winds at work, we’ve seen that many times, so yes, I’m wondering if the shiny thing spotted close to Curiosity is a piece of crud from another part of the assembly which dropped out of the sky on August 6th.

Anyway, it doesn’t seem to be that big a deal. They’ve stopped work while the nature of the shiny something is clarified, and I’m sure Curiosity will get on with analysing that dirt sample soon. I mean, it;s not as if they saw this, is it..?

:-)

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