A curious doughnut-shaped rock is visible on the surface of Mars in a picture taken by the Perseverance rover.
According to NASA, the Mars Perseverance rover, which was launched in July 2020, is still scouring the 28-mile (45-kilometer)-wide Jezero Crater of the planet for evidence of prehistoric microbial life. The rover gathers regolith samples—rock fragments and soil—for potential return to Earth by a future Mars mission.
The SuperCam Remote Micro-Imager, one of the rover’s cameras that lets scientists observe what’s on the planet’s surface, recently caught the Mars “doughnut” from a distance of around 100 meters (about 328 feet) in the delta of the Jezero Crater.
According to Jim Rice, an assistant research scientist at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, the specific composition and origins of the doughnut-shaped rock are unclear because the Perseverance team hasn’t moved the rover closer to it to inspect or sample it.
On June 14, Rice, a member of the rover’s Mastcam-Z imaging crew, discovered the rock for the first time. There are a few theories among scientists as to where the rock originated and where it did not.
Rocks and Reasons
Rice remarked, “I can’t say it’s not a meteorite with absolute, 100% certainty, but I think it’s highly unlikely.” The reason I say so is because there are several rocks in the area we’re in that have hollow innards.
Sedimentary sandstones, which are often found in this area, are thought to be a few billion years old, according to Rice. Floods carried those in through the Neretva Vallis, a large river channel, which is also where all the water, boulders, and silt entered the area.
He said that the doughnut-shaped boulder was probably brought from another location by the river channel. The size of the rock is greater than 25 centimeters (almost 10 inches), although Rice did not specify by how much.
He said that the doughnut-shaped boulder may have had another rock implanted in its middle before it was destroyed by weather and left with a void. Additionally, wind has the ability to progressively increase any minor holes or pits that were already there. Or perhaps the rock simply had a weaker core.
Rice remarked, “Really, scientifically, it’s nothing exceptional.
Given previous reports of meteorites being found on Mars, the planet’s closeness to the asteroid belt, and its ability to maintain meteorites, senior planetary scientist Pascal Lee of the SETI Institute believes the rock may be a meteorite.