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Either Curiosity Is Shedding Or Mars Is Covered in Weird Shiny Particles

After an unknown object turned out to be nothing but plastic, scientists were surprised to find more shiny things buried in the dirt

The first shiny object found on Mars, thought to be plastic shed from Curiosity. Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

Fresh on the heels of finding evidence for the presence of past water on Mars, the Curiosity rover again sent people into a tizzy when, during its first attempt to dig into the Martian soil, it found an unidentified shiny object. Speculation abounded as to what the shiny object could be, some serious, some less so. NASA eventually deemed the object to be a piece of plastic that came from the rover. Case closed. Right?

After NASA shunted the rover debris aside and went back for another stab at digging into the red planet, they found something unexpected: more shiny things. At first, New Scientist reports, scientists thought the rover might be shedding other debris, but soon they considered another possibility:

Further scrutiny now suggests that at least some of the unidentified particles are in fact native to Mars. Images show light-toned particles embedded in clumps of excavated soil, implying that they couldn’t have been shed by the rover.

“NASA is currently preparing to take a third sample from the site as well as more pictures,” says New Scientist, “which should help them figure out whether the bright bits are unwelcome litter or something worthy of delivery to the rover’s on-board lab equipment.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

Curiosity’s Latest: This Gigantic 3D Panorama of Mars
Curiosity Nails It: Mars Used to Have Flowing Water

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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