Are these the remains of a long-deceased "Martian king"?
It’s definitely one of the more bizarre — and intriguing — “discoveries” on the Red Planet.
A fringe website called UFOSightingsDaily claims to have spotted a skeleton on Mars from NASA Curiosity rover photo.
“This is enough evidence to rock the paleontology world off its high horse,” the site claims. “These skeletal remains of a living creature on Mars was found by Paranormal Crucible of Youtube. It could be an intelligent species, one of the creatures that controlled this planet. An extraordinary and unusual find that should change how we see Mars forever.”
The photo certainly is interesting, and at first glance it does look like a skeleton lying amongst the rocks of Mars. But considering there is no evidence that an intelligent civilization ever lived on Mars, there is likely some other explanation.
The photo was taken by Curiosity on June 28. The “remains” appear to be a deformed head, a rib cage, and a pair of arms along with some sort of crown-like structure on top of the head.
NASA hasn’t put out any pubic comment about the finding — probably because they don’t deem it worthy of comment — but the explanation is likely to be that the “skeleton” is made up of the same stuff as everything around it: rocks.
Here’s the latest statement from NASA on the Curiosity rover:
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is resuming full operations today, following work by engineers to investigate why the rover put itself into a safe standby mode on July 2. The rover team brought Curiosity out of safe mode on July 9.
The most likely cause of entry into safe mode has been determined to be a software mismatch in one mode of how image data are transferred on board. Science activity planning for the rover is avoiding use of that mode, which involves writing images from some cameras’ memories into files on the rover’s main computer. Alternate means are available for handling and transmitting all image data.
Curiosity Rover Enters Precautionary Safe Mode
The team operating NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is taking steps to return the rover to full activity following a precautionary stand-down over the Fourth of July weekend.
Curiosity is now communicating with ground controllers and is stable. The rover put itself into safe mode on July 2, ceasing most activities other than keeping itself healthy and following a prescribed sequence for resuming communications.
Engineers are working to determine the cause of safe-mode entry. Preliminary information indicates an unexpected mismatch between camera software and data-processing software in the main computer. The near-term steps toward resuming full activities begin with requesting more diagnostic information from Curiosity.
Curiosity has entered safe mode three times previously, all during 2013.
The rover landed in Mars’ Gale Crater in August 2012. During its first year on Mars, the mission achieved its goal by determining that, more than 3 billion years ago, the region offered fresh-water lakes and rivers with environmental conditions well-suited to supporting microbial life, if life has ever existed on Mars. In continuing investigations, the mission is learning more about the ancient wet environments and how and when they evolved to drier and less habitable conditions.
NASA last week approved an additional two-year extension, beginning Oct. 1, 2016, for the Mars Science Laboratory Project, which developed and operates Curiosity.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena.
NASA Rover’s Sand-Dune Studies Yield Surprise:
Some of the wind-sculpted sand ripples on Mars are a type not seen on Earth, and their relationship to the thin Martian atmosphere today provides new clues about the atmosphere’s history.
The determination that these mid-size ripples are a distinct type resulted from observations by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Six months ago, Curiosity made the first up-close study of active sand dunes anywhere other than Earth, at the “Bagnold Dunes” on the northwestern flank of Mars’ Mount Sharp.
“Earth and Mars both have big sand dunes and small sand ripples, but on Mars, there’s something in between that we don’t have on Earth,” said Mathieu Lapotre, a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and science team collaborator for the Curiosity mission. He is the lead author of a report about these mid-size ripples published in the July 1 issue of the journal Science.
Both planets have true dunes — typically larger than a football field — with downwind faces shaped by sand avalanches, making them steeper than the upwind faces.
Earth also has smaller ripples — appearing in rows typically less than a foot (less than 30 centimeters) apart — that are formed by wind-carried sand grains colliding with other sand grains along the ground. Some of these “impact ripples” corrugate the surfaces of sand dunes and beaches.
Images of Martian sand dunes taken from orbit have, for years, shown ripples about 10 feet (3 meters) apart on dunes’ surfaces. Until Curiosity studied the Bagnold Dunes, the interpretation was that impact ripples on Mars could be several times larger than impact ripples on Earth. Features the scale of Earth’s impact ripples would go unseen at the resolution of images taken from orbit imaging and would not be expected to be present if the meter-scale ripples were impact ripples.
“As Curiosity was approaching the Bagnold Dunes, we started seeing that the crest lines of the meter-scale ripples are sinuous,” Lapotre said. “That is not like impact ripples, but it is just like sand ripples that form under moving water on Earth. And we saw that superimposed on the surfaces of these larger ripples were ripples the same size and shape as impact ripples on Earth.”
Besides the sinuous crests, another similarity between the mid-size ripples on Mars and underwater ripples on Earth is that, in each case, one face of each ripple is steeper than the face on the other side and has sand flows, as in a dune. Researchers conclude that the meter-scale ripples are built by Martian wind dragging sand particles the way flowing water drags sand particles on Earth — a different mechanism than how either dunes or impact ripples form. Lapotre and co-authors call them “wind-drag ripples.”
“The size of these ripples is related to the density of the fluid moving the grains, and that fluid is the Martian atmosphere,” he said. “We think Mars had a thicker atmosphere in the past that might have formed smaller wind-drag ripples or even have prevented their formation altogether. Thus, the size of preserved wind-drag ripples, where found in Martian sandstones, may have recorded the thinning of the atmosphere.”
The researchers checked ripple textures preserved in sandstone more than 3 billion years old at sites investigated by Curiosity and by NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover. They found wind-drag ripples about the same size as modern ones on active dunes. That fits with other lines of evidence that Mars lost most of its original atmosphere early in the planet’s history.
Other findings from Curiosity’s work at the Bagnold Dunes point to similarities between how dunes behave on Mars and Earth.
“During our visit to the active Bagnold Dunes, you might almost forget you’re on Mars, given how similar the sand behaves in spite of the different gravity and atmosphere. But these mid-sized ripples are a reminder that those differences can surprise us,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
After examining the dune field, Curiosity resumed climbing the lower portion of Mount Sharp. The mission is investigating evidence about how and when ancient environmental conditions in the area evolved from freshwater settings favorable for microbial life, if Mars has ever hosted life, into conditions drier and less habitable.
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