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NASA says mysterious Mars 'jelly donut' rock no mystery, just a rock

Feb. 14, 2014 at 5:46 PM   |   Comments

GREENBELT, Md., Feb. 14 (UPI) -- NASA says the mystery "jelly doughnut" rock on Mars that appeared to come out of nowhere was just a rock, kicked up by the Opportunity rover's wheel.

A wheel broke it off a larger rock and then kicked it into the field of view of the rover's camera, the space agency reported Friday.

Confirmation came after analysis of recent images of the original piece of rock, slightly uphill from where the "jelly doughnut" -- officially dubbed Pinnacle island but given the doughnut nickname because of its white rim and red center -- came to rest, NASA scientists said.

"Once we moved Opportunity a short distance, after inspecting Pinnacle Island, we could see directly uphill an overturned rock that has the same unusual appearance," said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis. "We drove over it. We can see the track. That's where Pinnacle Island came from."

Examination of Pinnacle Island revealed high levels of elements such as manganese and sulfur, water-soluble ingredients concentrated in the rock by the action of water.

"This may have happened just beneath the surface relatively recently," Arvidson said, "or it may have happened deeper below ground longer ago and then, by serendipity, erosion stripped away material above it and made it accessible to our wheels."

Topics: Ray Arvidson
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