Mysterious Mars Photo: Curiosity Camera May Have Captured ‘Serendipitous’ Moment
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity made a successful landing, marking the end of a nine-month, 354-million-mile journey. Black-and-white photographs offered both scientists and the public glimpses of the Red Planet. One particularly mysterious photo from Mars is garnering attention and—if the theory about it is verified, it would be a one-of-a-kind shot.
The Los Angeles Times first reported on the mysterious Mars photo , detailing how one shot, captured with a device on Curiosity’s rear called a Hazcam, shows a distinct blotch or plume visible on the horizon. However, two hours later Curiosity captured higher-resolution photos and the blotch was gone.
“The photo shows the aftermath of the landing in the vast Gale crater, during which the rover was lowered to the surface on cables attached to the hovering Sky Crane,” writes SPACE.com reporter Clara Moskowitz. “Around Curiosity’s landing spot, dark streaks can be seen where the bright dust of the Martian surface has been disturbed by the rover’s descent hardware.”
One theory is that the mysterious photo sent from Mars shows part of the spacecraft that escorted the rover through the atmosphere crash-landing about 2,000-feet away. If true, “it would be incredibly cool. … A crazy, serendipitous thing,” Curiosity mission manager Michael Watkins told the L.A. Times on Tuesday. “It bears looking into.”
Although Curiosity’s best images are yet to come, the mystery of the phantom blotch may never be solved.