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Mars Curiosity rover discovers unusual flower-like object

NASA’s Curiosity rover has released a new series of images that reveal an unusual flower-like formation embedded in the Martian rock, along with a snake-like rock formation adorning the planet’s surface.

The rover is currently making its way through a shallow depression dubbed “Yellowknife Bay,” after spending its first four months deep inside Gale Crater. The surrounding terrain is now flatter and lighter-toned, and has turned up two very interesting features.

On the mission’s 147th Martian day, termed a ‘sol’ (sols are 2.7 percent longer than days on Earth at an average of 24h 37m), the Mars Hand Lends Imager at the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm snapped a picture of a curious translucent formation, almost resembling a flower to some intrigued viewers.

Guy Webster of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California said in a statement that the object “appears to be part of the rock, not debris from the spacecraft.”

The Curiosity rover has come across bits of clear plastic before, that were in fact parts of itself scattered across the Red Planet’s surface after landing.

As part of an effort to capture 360-degree panorama images of Yellowknife bay, NASA released a mosaic image Friday showing a dark, snake-like rock formation winding across the Martian landscape.

NASA scientists, who believe the Red Planet may once have been partially covered with liquid water, named the feature “Snake River.” JPL officials said the elevated band of darker rock may make for a good drilling site as the team evaluates potential first targets for Curiosity’s hammering drill in coming weeks.

“It’s one piece of the puzzle,” said project scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “It has a crosscutting relationship to the surrounding rock and appears to have formed after the deposition of the layer that it transects.”

“The area the rover is in looks good for our first drilling target,” added project manager Richard Cook. JPL officials said the drill test is expected soon.

The Curiosity Rover will then embark further toward its destination of Glenelg, at the base of a nearby peak dubbed Mount Sharp. The mission has covered 2,303 feet (702 meters) of Martian soil since landing on August 5th, 2012. Despite this seemingly slow pace, NASA scientists expect the rover mission to create a leap in our understanding of the solar system’s fourth planet.

The $2.5 billion Curiosity rover has a two-year primary mission of assessing whether Mars, specifically areas inside Gale Crater, ever offered a habitable environment for microbes.

On Wednesday scientists announced an exciting discovery– a two-billion-year old Martian rock found in the Moroccan Sahara contains more evidence of water than any other known Martian rock sample, according to Science Magazine.

The meteorite, nicknamed ‘Black Beauty’, is estimated to have contained 6,000 parts per million water. The finding strongly supports the Curiosity rover’s mission, since the development of microbial life is postulated to require liquid water.