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More Mysteries of Mars
The robots we've sent to the Red Planet are sending back photos containing some anomalous and highly intriguing features
More of this Feature
Part 2: The Riverbed and Golf Ball Crater

Related Resources
• The Most Perplexing Anomalies of Mars
• Mars: Evidence of Life and Past Civilizations
• Strange Things on the Moon

From Other Guides
• Space/Astronomy: Mars Pictures

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THE SUCCESSFUL LANDING of two rovers on the surface of Mars - a planet that at it closest is 35 million miles away - is a remarkable accomplishment. Both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers have been beaming back gorgeous, high-resolution photos of the reddish-brown Martian surface. At the same time, orbiting spacecraft continue to snap pictures from on high.

For the most part, the photos from all these craft reveal a stark, dry planet with a wealth of fascinating geologic features. Every once in a while, however, we get photos that contain anomalous features - things that don't look completely natural or don't fit in to the currently accepted notions of what Mars is like. At the very least, they need some explaining.

We have looked at many of these anomalies in past articles (see "The Most Perplexing Anomalies of Mars" and "Mars: Evidence of Life and Past Civilizations?"). Here are some of the latest
photos showing strange things on Mars.

Credit: NASA/JPL/CornellThe Rabbit Plant
The photo (actually a mosaic of photos stitched together to create a 360-degree panorama) from which this close up was made was taken by the Opportunity rover in early February. The large panorama (you can see the full-size photo here; it's about 8MB) reveals a desert-like landscape with rolling hills, outcroppings of layered rock and round imprints of the lander's airbags. But there are a few oddities in this photo for which we'd like to see some official and definitive explanation.

About two-thirds across to the right on the panorama and about half-way down is the strange object shown above. The two prongs sticking up out of it make it look like a Martian bunny or some kind of queer plant. It is unlike anything else seen on the surface, and so the logical conclusion is that it is castoff debris from the Opportunity lander, although no such debris is seen in a similar panorama from the Sprit lander. We are hoping, however, that the Opportunity rover will cruise on over to this object and show us exactly what it is. (This article suggests that the rover might have rolled over the object!)

Credit: NASA/JPL/CornellThe Glider
Further to the right and up a bit in the same panorama is another anomalous object resting on the surface. This object, looking here like a model of the Space Shuttle, doesn't appear to be a rock; the shadow it casts gives it the appearance of laying on top of the soil rather than being partially buried in it, as the other Martian rocks are.

Again, this could very well be debris that dropped of the lander's airbags as it bounced to a stop, or that popped off the lander as it opened up. But we sure would like to see close-up photos from the Opportunity cameras showing us with no uncertainty that that's what it is.

Credit: NASA/JPL/CornellThe Bow Tie
One more unnatural-looking object jumps out of the panorama mosaic. It appears further to the right and closer to the lander inside what seems to be a depression strewn with pebbles. (The imaginative person might say these "pebbles" look like small bunches of foliage of some kind.) The object is a strip of something with a dark middle and two white ends.

Its proximity to the lander suggests that it is a manmade object from the lander itself. But wouldn't we like to see the rover roll over there and zoom in on this thing - and the surrounding "pebbles" - to settle the matter?

Chances are, the rover will not be directed to take close looks at any of these objects because, we can be sure, the folks at NASA and JPL are already convinced that they are just lander debris and not worth investigating any further.

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