Mars Curiosity Rover Detects Bright Object on the Red Planet

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/AP

This image from the right Mast Camera (Mastcam) of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows a scoop full of sand and dust lifted by the rover's first use of the scoop on its robotic arm. In the foreground, near the bottom of the image, a bright object is visible on the ground. NASA says it is likely a piece of plastic from the Curiosity rover. Oct. 8, 2012.

NASA’s recently-launched Mars Curiosity Rover discovered the shiny object Sunday afternoon, leading to scientists speculating about what it could be. Some kind of Martian metal? A small chip of life-supporting frozen water? An artifact from a lost Martian civilization?

Well, no. It turns out the foreign object – said to be less than a tenth of an inch across — may actually be from the Rover itself. According to an official statement from NASA:

The rover team’s assessment is that the bright object is something from the rover, not Martian material. It appears to be a shred of plastic material, likely benign, but it has not been definitively identified.

(MORE: An Inside Look at the Mars Curiosity Rover)

The space agency, in an attempt to accurately identify the entity, will continue photographing the mysterious object before it will decide to test and process the rover’s sand sample. As reported by CBS News, the first few scoops from the Rover is intended to rid the robot of any residual Earth contaminants so that all following scientific measurements done on Mars will be accurate.

The Curiosity Rover landed on the red planet on Aug. 5 and is expected to spend two years exploring Earth’s closest planetary neighbor.

(PHOTOS: Photos from the Mars Curiosity Rover)

Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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rokinsteve
rokinsteve

It's Mitt Romney's mind.  He lost it a long time ago.