6a00d8341bf67c53ef017d3f7e8896970c-800wiA magnified view of  MAHLI’s mystery object          Photo credit NASA/JPL-Caltech

While the rover explored “Yellowknife Bay” last December 19th, its robotic arm-mounted Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera recorded an intriguing image of a bright object nestled in the rocky outcropping.

The initial assumption that the object was another piece of debris dropped by the rover was denied by NASA spokesman Guy Webster after initial analysis confirmed it’s part of the rock and not something foreign lying on the Martian surface.

But alas, contrary to the hopes of some laypersons who first saw the tiny object shaped like a tiny flower, it’s not a flower.  It’s a tiny concentration of minerals embedded in the Martian rockscape.

We’ll have to wait until the mission’s scientists examine the tiny outcropping more thoroughly to learn the nature and significance of Curiosity’s latest discovery.

The human brain is subject to a phenomenon known as “pareidolia,” meaning it tends to attach significance to random shapes, concluding that if an object looks like a flower on Mars, then it is indeed something biological.

My Take:  Perhaps pareidolia is responsible for the affection we feel for the man in the moon and the various constellations named after mythical and natural beings.

It may even account for the sightings of saints in a pancake on a grill.

Source:  Discovery News, January 4, 2013


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