Courtesy of NASA
New Mars photos sent from the Curiosity Rover have sparked speculation among scientists and the public alike after an unknown, blurry blotch was seen in the distance. The Curiosity Rover landed on the Red Planet Sunday, and has been transmitting images ever since.
The new Mars photo- the very first picture sent by the rover's Hazard Avoidance camera, or Hazcam- was sent less than 24 hours after the landing, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The picture showcases "faint but distinctive" blur, said the LA Times. In the next pictures, however, the blur is gone.
Many speculated wild theories as to the identification of the blur; a Martian being, a smudge of dirt on the camera, or a piece of the Rover crashing seemed to be the most popular guesses, but NASA had a much simpler explanation.
NASA released a bird's-eye "crime scene" style picture detailing the relation of the sky crane- Curiosity's spacecraft ride to Mars- and its crash landing site. Because it crash landed about 2,000 from where the Rover was, NASA feels the blur was simply dust kicked up from the impact.
Still, some don't feel that fully explains the blur.
Curiosity catching the sky crane's crash landing in its very first photo "would be an insane coincidence," an engineer told The LA Times. "It would be incredibly cool. … A crazy, serendipitous thing," Michael Watkins, the Curiosity mission manager, agreed.
Others, however, feel that the blotch being the spacecraft is pretty much the only option.
"It's circumstantial evidence- but it's pretty good circumstantial evidence … It looks like we may have actually seen it, but it's hard to know," Emily Lakdawalla, a senior editor at the Planetary Society, admitted. Similarly, Watkins pointed to the spacecraft being an option.
"I don't think you can rule [the sky crane] out," Watkins said. "It bears looking into."
Since then, Curiosity Rover has taken more pictures of Mars, including the famous Mount Sharp, an enormous mountain rising three miles from the Gale Crater. Images are also available from the Mars Descent Imager, which documented the sky crane and the Rover's fall to the planet.