Mars ‘Jelly Doughnut’ Mystery Solved: It’s Just A Rock, NASA Says

By February 17, 2014NPR News
This composite image provided by NASA shows before-and-after images taken by the Opportunity rover on Mars of a patch of ground taken on Dec. 26, 2013, showing the "Pinnacle Island" rock. AP

This composite image provided by NASA shows before-and-after images taken by the Opportunity rover on Mars of a patch of ground taken on Dec. 26, 2013, showing the “Pinnacle Island” rock. AP

It appeared out of the red, like something dropped by a Martian Homer Simpson. But now NASA has an explanation for the “jelly doughnut” object photographed by the Opportunity rover in December.

First, here’s what it isn’t: It is not a fungus-like Martian organism, nor is it ejecta shot into the air by a nearby (and unseen) meteor impact.

Instead, it’s geologic roadkill. Basically.

“We drove over it,” Opportunity’s Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson said in a statement on Friday.

The whitish rock, with what looks suspiciously like a delicious red pastry filling, has been dubbed “Pinnacle Island” by researchers. In a set of before-and-after photos snapped by Curiosity’s onboard cameras, it’s first not there and then, suddenly, it is.

As The Los Angeles Times says:

“The small rock became a subject of worldwide interest soon after it was spotted Jan. 8 by Opportunity’s cameras. It was puzzling because it did not show up in images the rover took of the same location taken 12 days earlier.”

Many people on social media were simply having fun with the mystery, but to some it was a more serious matter. Rhawn Joseph, who describes himself as a neuroscientist and astrobiologist, went so far as to file a lawsuit against NASA last month, accusing the space agency of not doing its duty to fully investigate the possibility of life on Mars, calling its failure to release high-resolution photos of the object “recklessly negligent and bizarre.”

Joseph’s theory is that “Pinnacle Island” is actually “a fully grown bowl-shaped organism resembling Apothecia,” which are “a mixture of fungus and cyanobacteria.”

Whether you believe JPL’s explanation or not, the conclusion that it’s just a piece of Martian rock is a grand nod to William of Occam (c. 1287-1347), whose principle of parsimony — which has guided scientists for centuries — dictates that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.image
Read original article – Published February 15, 2014 1:16 PM
Mars ‘Jelly Doughnut’ Mystery Solved: It’s Just A Rock, NASA Says

Recent headlines

  • dollar bill money macro

    Per diems driving special session costs

    Lawmakers who represent areas outside Juneau receive $295 for each day of the special session. Juneau lawmakers receive $221.25 per day.
  • Caroline Hoover proudly pins an Alaska Territorial Guard medal on the front of her father's parka during an official discharge ceremony held Oct. 17 in Kipnuk, Alaska. David Martin is one of three surviving members of the Alaska Territorial Guard's Kipnuk unit. A total of 59 residents of Kipnuk, who volunteered to defend Alaska in the event of a Japanese invasion during World War II, were recognized during the ceremony. Kipnuk residents who served with the Alaska Territorial Guard from 1942-1947 were members of a U.S. Army component organized in response to attacks by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. (Photo by Jerry Walton, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs cultural resource manager and native liaison/public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

    16 Alaska Territorial Guard vets to be honored in Anchorage

    Sixteen veterans of the Alaska Territorial Guard will be honored at a discharge ceremony today. Four of them are from Western Alaska.
  • Don Andrew Roguska looks out from an upstairs window of an historic Juneau house he bought in 2016 to restore. Zoning regulations have prevented him from rebuilding in the same style. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)

    Juneau mulls relaxing zoning rules for historic houses

    The historic houses in Juneau and Douglas were predominately built by miners and fishermen long before today's zoning was put into place. That's prevented homeowners from restoring or rebuilding homes in these neighborhoods without running into conflict with the city's zoning laws -- a temporary fix may be on the way.
  • Young joins Afghanistan war skeptics in Congress

    Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young wants to know why Americans are still fighting in Afghanistan. He has co-sponsored a bill that would end funding for the war in a year, unless the president and Congress affirm the need for it.
X