NASA’s Curiosity Rover finds a book-shaped rock on Mars
A rock that is the spitting image of an open book — complete with page mid-turn — has been spotted on the planet Mars. The geological feature, which has been dubbed “Terra Firme” was photographed by the Mars Hand Lens Imager on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover back on April 15 this year. Terra Firme would likely be a quick read, were it a real volume, for Curiosity has measured it as being barely an inch (2.5 centimetres) across.
A NASA spokesperson explained: “Rocks with unusual shapes are common on Mars, and often were formed by water seeping through cracks in a rock in the ancient past, bringing harder minerals along with them.
“After aeons of being sand-blasted by the wind, softer rock is carved away and the harder materials are all that’s left.”
On Twitter, the official account for the Curiosity Rover posted: “Just doing some light reading!
“My team thinks this uniquely-shaped pebble resembles an open book with pages blowing in the wind. (Though at only an inch across, it would be a teeny tiny book…).”
For those with a pair of classic red–cyan 3D glasses to hand, NASA has also released an “anaglyph” picture of Terra Firme, so people at home can view the rock in stereoscopic 3D.
3D glasses work by having two different coloured lenses that block out different parts of the stereoscopic images, tricking your brain into seeing the picture as having depth.
As the Curiosity Rover account notes: “If you don’t have any 3D glasses on hand, you can always make your own.”
NASA has provided instructions on how to make your own pair of basic 3D glasses — in just ten minutes — on their Mars Exploration website.
The picture of Terra Firme — and its semblance to a real book — amused people on social media.
Twitter user Michael Dennis said: “This may not be [a book], but it sure looks close. I didn’t think right angles occurred in nature.”
Posting a picture of a book of her own, Bettina Koza added: “The resemblance is striking.”
And @Faith_In25 tweeted: “It certainly looks like a book. An open book. Did you find any message written for you there?”
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The Curiosity Rover — which is about the size of a car — has been exploring the Gale Crater on Mars since late 2012.
The rover’s mission has been to investigate the climate and geology of the Red Planet, and determine whether Gale Crater ever had the right conditions to support life.
Data collected by the mission, particularly as regards the levels of surface radiation on Mars, will help to inform future crewed missions to our neighbouring planet.
In December 2012, NASA announced that it would be extending Curiosity’s mission indefinitely — and it remains active today.
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