After all the debate and discussion, NASA has announced, in a press release, that their clever scientists have solved the mystery of Pinnacle Island. Turns out it didn’t fall from the sky after being blasted out of the ground miles away by an asteroid impact, and it wasn’t thrown at the rover by a gang of mischevious martian kids. No. Occam’s Razor prevailed… as usual… and the rather less dramatic explanation is the most obvious one: Pinnacle Island was tiddly-winked onto the ground next to Oppy after one of the rover’s wheels rolled over and then broke up a larger rock nearby (“Stuart Island”, see previous post for pics), sending pieces of it skittering away, as this NASA image explains…
So, Pinnacle Island is the classic “chip off the old block”. Here’s the full explanation from the NASA press release…
February 14, 2014
Researchers have determined the now-infamous Martian rock resembling a jelly doughnut, dubbed Pinnacle Island, is a piece of a larger rock broken and moved by the wheel of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in early January.
Only about 1.5 inches wide (4 centimeters), the white-rimmed, red-centered rock caused a stir last month when it appeared in an image the rover took Jan. 8 at a location where it was not present four days earlier.
More recent images show the original piece of rock struck by the rover’s wheel, slightly uphill from where Pinnacle Island came to rest.
“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, suggesting these water-soluble ingredients were 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.”
Now that the rover is finished inspecting this rock, the team plans to drive Opportunity south and uphill to investigate exposed rock layers on the slope.
So, there you go. Those “tracks” I spotted on the ground slightly up the slope? Nothing to do with Pinnacle Island after all. The little rock just tap danced its way to Oppy from barely a few feet away. Oh well, I’m just pleased that the NASA team figured it out. It’s still a fascinating story, isn’t it?
…not fascinating enough for some though, it seems. When NASA posted its press release on Facebook, inevitably some of the growing legion of space conspiracy theory nutters and whackos weren’t going to take their word for it…
Yeah, well, that’s not too fruit loopy I guess. Ever since that film CAPRICORN ONE came out there have been people insisting NASA’s whole space program has been faked since Apollo. But this level of stoopid is new…
I hope that guy is being silly and having a joke, but the classic Trolling use of UPPER CASE suggests otherwise. Still, if NASA really is preventing the discovery of life on other plants that would be news, wouldn’t it..?
More soon, Oppy’s on the move again…!