Well, for the second time so far, the Mars rover Curiosity has returned a photograph that has something in it that is fueling massive speculation. On one of Curiosity’s first voyages, an object was seen in the distance. It was eventually determined to be a piece of the rover itself that had fallen off. Now, the latest photograph shows a tiny white speck of something that stands out in great contrast against the red Martian soil. Only a millimeter or so, it was unearthed (okay, that’s a funny word for it) when the rover used a mechanical arm to scoop up some of the dirt.
Scientists say that it is nothing to be up in arms about and is probably just a bit of soil with a different hue. At first glance, scientists were concerned that it had been put there by the rover somehow. This is one of the most difficult parts of experiments on other bodies in our solar system. Data can be marred so easily by the devices and crafts contaminating the scene with substances from Earth. This really came into play back in the 1970’s when the Viking lander became the first craft from Earth to land on Mars. Early examinations of soil showed signs of biological activity that excited scientists. However, it was eventually determined that the results of the experiments were meaningless because they could not prove that the findings were not a cause of microscopic organisms hitching a ride from Earth to Mars. Scientists concede that they can’t be sure the white speck was not brought from Earth and deposited there somehow, but they have also offered other theories. These range from it simply looking different because of the way the light was hitting it or that the white object is a different kind of mineral than the surrounding soil, resulting in a different color. In any case, Curiosity knows where the object is and will continue to investigate its origin.