The theme of TrueStrange is “the strangest thing that happened in the world today,” or “the strangest thing I heard about today,” whichever seems more interesting.
Today’s strange news award goes to the possibility of someone or something throwing a rock into the path of the Mars Opportunity rover and cleaning the solar panels when they get dusty.
It just so happens that it was discovered three years ago on Elvis Presley’s birthday (and mine). Did Elvis like jelly donuts? Yes.
Posted on April 14, 2012 by Phil Arnold
Most serious Elvis fans know he did only one advertisement during his career. It was for one of his favorite food items – donuts. Elvis recorded a radio jingle for Southern Maid Donuts. … Elvis frequented The Southern Maid Donut store in town, getting an early foundation for his well-publicized lifetime affinity for donuts.
It is strange, then, that a rock looking like a jelly donut appeared on Mars to be discovered on the birthday of the King of Rock and Roll.
On January 8th 2014, a strange Mars rock was spotted by Opportunity resting in a spot where earlier, there was nothing but soil.
The rock, which scientists now call Pinnacle Island, is in the shape of a doughnut, white on the outside, red in the middle, it appeared after Opportunity had just finished a short drive.
“It looks like a jelly doughnut,” said Steve Squyres, the rover’s lead scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, during a recent NASA event marking Opportunity’s 10th year on Mars. ” it appeared, it just plain appeared at that spot, and we haven’t driven over that spot.
Strangely, NASA has remained pretty silent in regards to the details of the find for the past few years, only recently coming forward to claim they had solved the mystery of its sudden appearance. Claiming the rover had indeed disturbed the rock somehow.
The odd rock is located in a spot on “Murray Ridge” along the wall of Endeavour Crater where Opportunity spent the Martian winter.
A closer look at the rock using Opportunity’s robotic arm-mounted instruments has revealed, quote, “It’s like nothing we ever seen before. It’s very high in sulphur, very high in magnesium, it has twice as much manganese than anything we’ve seen on Mars,” said Squyres with excitement during an event in January.
“I don’t know what any of this means. We’re completely confused, but we’re having a wonderful time.” He stated.
Squyres said rover scientists have two working theories on how the Pinnacle Island rock mysteriously appeared near Opportunity. One suggests that the rock is a piece of debris from an meteorite impact somewhere near the rover that just so happened to land in front of Opportunity. While the other theory is that the rock was somehow kicked up by one of the rover’s six wheels during its recent drive.
This is regardless of squyres original comment regarding the rover not having previously traversing that particular area.
Did something actually throw this very interesting, and possibly extremely important rock in the rovers direction.
We already have the rovers mysterious cleaning events which have occurred on many occasions, with every strange event that occurs on mars, the possibility of outside help from an intelligent entity, becomes less absurd.
Did an alien, or possibly covert astronauts throw us a bone in the form of a stone?
This before-and-after pair of images of the same patch of ground in front of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity 13 days apart documents the arrival of a bright rock onto the scene. The rover had completed a short drive just before taking the second image, and one of its wheels likely knocked the rock — dubbed “Pinnacle Island” — to this position. The rock is about the size of a doughnut.
The images are from Opportunity’s panoramic camera (Pancam). The one on the left is from 3,528th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Dec. 26, 2013). The one on the right, with the newly arrived rock, is from Sol 3540 (Jan. 8, 2014). Much of the rock is bright-toned, nearly white. A portion is deep red in color. Pinnacle Island may have been flipped upside down when a wheel dislodged it, providing an unusual circumstance for examining the underside of a Martian rock.
Then there are the cleaning events where, supposedly from the action of the wind, the dust is cleaned from the rover’s solar panels.
A cleaning event is a phenomenon whereby dust is removed from solar panels, particularly ones on Mars, by the action of wind. The term cleaning event is used on several NASA webpages; generally the term is used in reference to the fact that Martian winds have blown dust clear off the solar panels of probes on Mars increasing their energy output.
The term started being used in 2004 as the Mars Exploration Rovers’ solar panels started to benefit from these events. The rovers were expected to last about 90 sols (Martian days) on Mars, after which dust would cover their solar panels and reduce solar power to levels too low for the rovers to operate. However, power levels went back up due to the cleaning events caused by the winds in the Martian atmosphere. Periodic cleaning events have allowed the MER rovers to operate far longer than the planned 3 months. While Spirit rover finally ceased operation in 2011, Opportunity rover remains active as of 2017, more than 13 years after landing.
Cleaning events can either be rapid, such as overnight, or over many days where solar power slowly goes up
Here’s NASA’s answer for the jelly donut:
Researchers have determined the now-infamous Martian rock resembling a jelly doughnut, dubbed Pinnacle Island, is a piece of a larger rock broken and moved by the wheel of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in early January.
Only about 1.5 inches wide (4 centimeters), the white-rimmed, red-centered rock caused a stir last month when it appeared in an image the rover took Jan. 8 at a location where it was not present four days earlier.