At last, NASA's scientists have solved the mystery behind the rock that materialised out of nowhere right in front of the Mars Curiosity rover–the infamous doughnut rock–that surprised everyone at mission control.
The mystery prompted NASA Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres to exclaim "wait a second, that wasn't there before, it can't be right. Oh my god! It wasn't there before!"
One day it wasn't there and four days later it magically appeared right in front of the rover's cameras. The event fired up speculation all over the internet, with the usual conspiracy theorists claiming it was aliens and one even suing the US Federal Government demanding for resources to be devoted to this rock.
Now Squyres and his team claim that the rock mystery has been solved at last:
Researchers have determined the now-infamous Martian rock resembling a doughnut, dubbed Pinnacle Island, is a piece of a larger rock broken and moved by the wheel of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in early January.
Only about 1.5 inches wide (4 centimetres), the white-rimmed, red-centred rock caused a stir last month when it appeared in an image the rover took Jan. 8 at a location where it was not present four days earlier.
According to Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, "once we moved Opportunity a short distance, after inspecting Pinnacle Island, we could see directly uphill an overturned rock that has the same unusual appearance. We drove over it. We can see the track. That's where Pinnacle Island came from."
Here's an image of the original rock smashed by Curiosity: