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Nasa solves mystery of Mars 'doughnut' rock

Published on Feb 15, 2014 7:48 PM

CHICAGO (AFP) - Nasa scientists were finally able to explain the origin of the mysterious rock shaped like a jelly doughnut that appeared near the rover Opportunity in early January.

The small, round object suddenly popped up in pictures taken 12 days apart by the US space agency's decade-old Opportunity rover.

On December 26, 2013, it was not there. On January 8, it was. But what is it? The explanation is somewhat prosaic: the four centimeters wide, white-rimmed, red-centered rock, dubbed Pinnacle Island, is a piece of a larger rock that was broken and moved by Opportunity's wheel in early January.

"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," said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis on Friday.

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