October 18th, 2012
06:17 PM ET

Mars rover spots shiny objects

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

As the rover Curiosity tries out more of its tools on Mars, surprises emerge on the Red Planet. After using the rover to scooping dirt, scientists saw something unexpected: small bright objects.

At first, they looked man-made and out of place, said John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory Project scientist and professor at California Institute of Technology, at a news briefing Thursday.

But upon closer examination, these 1-millimeter flecks – about the size of the granules in the soil – were not uniformly bright and didn't appear to have come from the rover.

"The majority of the science team felt that this might be something that is actually indigenous to Mars," he said.

There are two prevailing theories about what these flecks might be. One is that certain classes of minerals, when broken along a cleavage plane, would have a flat surface that reflects sunlight. Or perhaps they're part of a soil-forming process.

This is probably not connected to the object that Curiosity found last week, which NASA scientists believe was "a shred of plastic material, likely benign."

The images that the rover sends from this location will help scientists come up with more hypotheses about how this area was formed. They will eventually pick a rock for the rover to drill into.

"Beginning with some rocks we studied before the scooping began, and going on now for the several weeks in front of us, those images will help guide us and give the team options of what I’m starting to call tours," he said.

Curiosity is currently situated at the "promised land" of Glenelg , a site of particular scientific interest on the Red Planet because three different kinds of terrain exist there.

For a little over a week, the rover has been sitting at a place called Rocknest, where it has used its scoop three times to pick up Martian material. The rover threw away the first two samples because they were used for cleaning high-tech instruments. Curiosity inserted material from the third sample into an instrument called Chemistry & Mineralogy (CheMin), which will analyze the minerals of which the material is composed.

"The most important thing about our mobile laboratory is that it eats dirt," Grotzinger said.

The rover has been operating on Mars since its spectacular landing on August 6. After Glenelg, it will head to Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain made of layers of sediment. Curiosity will examine these layers for organic molecules, evidence that life could have once existed there.

What we've done on Mars, and what's next

Post by:
Filed under: In Space • Mars
soundoff (595 Responses)
  1. Gradivus

    It certainly looks to me like a gold nugget!

    February 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  2. hank

    from all the different photos i've (not a geologist) seen, i just have a gut feeling that there was some kind of advanced civilization/buildings existed once and got completely destroyed. i'm sure we'll come to know within the next ten or twenty years or may be sooner.

    October 31, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  3. ticabella

    Picture 10: looks like a pile of broken down CEMENT pieces.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  4. Durango

    Obviously, it's a scale from a chigoe.

    October 23, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  5. Eric

    It's a coke bottle top!

    October 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  6. Profit Mow Ham ID

    THis photo insults IS_lame! I super duper mad now brah!

    October 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  7. str8Vision

    HMmmm....I wonder if the rover has an Elvis detector aboard, sounds like it ran across a sequin off one of his glittery outfits.

    October 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  8. geoff

    suggest that the bright flecks are gold and americans will figure out how to get there, set up colonies etc in about a year.....and they will gladly fund nasa mars exploration.....be the 21rst century version of the california gold rush...

    October 20, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  9. Majav

    As old as Mars is, it probably belongs to Sammy Davis Jr. That was way before they called it bling. But bling it is.

    October 20, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • elvinmerij

      Ha, no kidding. And he knew how to wear it. The Rat Pack man, the Rat Pack.

      October 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  10. elvinmerij

    Shucks, I left my watch up there last time I visited ...

    October 20, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  11. hal2000

    it will be great watching the creationists trying to twist logic, and say that the existence of primitive life forms on mars, somehow proves intelligent design here on earth. get the popcorn

    October 19, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  12. Dean

    after reading some of the comments the game red faction comes to mind

    October 19, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  13. Julie

    I love the headlines for the Mars rover almost as much as the thing itself.
    ‘Curiosity Approaches Rock!’
    ‘Mars Rover Moves 17 Feet in a Week!’
    “Rover Examines Rock’

    and of course – “Mars Rover Spots Shiny Objects!”

    It’s like the thing is someones adorable new kitten, or incredibly average first child.

    I hope our descendants look back from other worlds and chuckle – but for now, Curiositys’ presence on Mars really IS truly awesome.


    October 19, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  14. ass9

    Didnt a couple satellites crash land on mars?

    October 19, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  15. cdubb1545

    If humanity could find the time to stop admiring themselves in the mirror, WE could truly dedicate the greatest resource available to us, to ADVANCE the entirety of the human race. The mind is what allowed man to ascend to its greatness, and the mind is the only thing that can truly move us forward.

    October 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  16. johnquepublique

    Hope it doesn't find oil...the OBAMINATION will have it shut down in a heartbeat...

    October 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  17. zapper

    So did god make Mars, too?

    October 19, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      Yes and he made it just far away enough that the only people smart enough to create and land something on it are the ones that by majority do not believe in him in the first place. Meanwhile, the people that do believe in him and barely understand the Pythagorum theorem complain that the mission is too costly and is of no value just before they try to elect a man President who thinks his underwear wards of evil spirits.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Majav

      No, God does not like Mars. He like's Cadbury and Nestle. Mars bars are from Satan- devilishly delicious.

      October 20, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  18. Rick Shultz

    I hope they do a shot with the laser on one of these little bits they're seeing. I would DEARLY love to know what they're composed of. They MIGHT be mica, but my money is on iron pyrite. If they could magnify enough, they might be able to tell from the shape of the chrystals what it is. I'll settle for a spectro from the laser, but whatever they do I hope they do it soon because I'm very curious.

    October 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  19. jemzinthekop

    While science was expanding our knowledge of our solar system, religion was shooting a young girl in the head for trying to go to school.

    October 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Majav

      That's not nice. Religions don't shoot people, only people who believe in them do. I don't think Muslims have dibs on this one.
      Christian nations killed 20 million Christians in WWII. I think your anti-Musllim rant connects dots that aren't there and does it in a way that is highly derogatory. It's not unbiased and if it is biased, it's not science. Sorry Charlie, back to the ocean with the plankton for you. Grow up nice and I will be happy to stuff you in an avocado with plenty of mayo just to cover up the smell.

      October 20, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  20. jj

    My precioussssss

    October 19, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  21. Cybermantis

    Newsflash! The entire reason Curiosity is on MARS, is to look for Diamonds and Gold. If none are found, there will be no manned mission to Mars. If they do find it, watch how fast a manned mission to Mars becomes top-priority. Don't expect to be told anything if they do find anything of value up there. It will be a secret. Just like the entire Space Shuttle program was created to put spy satellites in orbit for the NRO and NSA.

    October 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  22. steve wise

    Guess I wasn't the only one to ask about the gold angle...

    October 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  23. steve wise

    Any gold or diamonds in those shiny flecks.

    October 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  24. marsMan

    I love mars!!!

    October 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  25. Ape Banana

    I guess that confirms it people:
    The Mars Rover is a female, and probably voted for Obama.

    October 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  26. Big M

    Would somebody explain something to me? How does NASA sucker people into believing that they can transmit photos and/or video from millions of miles away, with no telecom satellite to transmit it (not to mention that the off-the-chart levels of radiation in deep space would literally destroy any such transmission)? For crying out loud, you can't even transmit video across the Atlantic without one. Any takers?

    October 19, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Cybermantis

      Yeah, i'll bite. No distortions in the vacuum of space. Signals will transmit. Our atmosphere creates distortions. Mars doesn't have much of an atmosphere. I do believe we have a satellite orbiting Mars. The rover relays the signal to the orbiting satellite, and the sat shoots it to a satellite orbiting earth. Wala. You got your images. Now stop crying.

      October 19, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  27. Melissa

    I would like to hear further more information perpetualy on this subject. Thanks, please keep me updated.

    October 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  28. jvance

    These guys know their business but the object in photo # 3 doesn't look natural to me. I think it's one of the chads from the Florida voting machines in 2000.

    October 19, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  29. AceGirlsHusband

    If those granules turn out to be gold, I predict private space exploration companies will develop warp speed engines, enormous payloads and have a colony on the Red Planet in two years... all without government assistance whatsoever.

    October 19, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  30. Jim

    I see it, I see it !!! It's a beer can.

    October 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Majav

      True! But it's empty. Wanna know where the natives went? Simple. Follow the beer stains on shirts. That would be Southern Republicans watching football.

      October 20, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  31. dalethaltongue

    I wonder sometimes about NASA's disclosure...
    Like, if they found alien life or some proof of alien intelligence, would they tell the American public?

    October 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  32. Jay Flay

    You all just don't understand. Curiosity is not really on Mars. These pictures are being beamed to us from the back yard of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital Regional Office in Yemen, where all those American jobs got outsourced to. Every time you click on one of these "Mars" photos, 5 cents goes into Mitt's Swiss bank account. Ryan just gets a penny..........

    October 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  33. Thor

    For those who are interested, bring lots of tanks of water. You will need some!

    October 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  34. colirock

    I see a face! Picture number 9 (the ancient flowing stream), just left of center. It looks like a face has been carved into the pinnacle of the rock formation. Does anyone else see that?

    October 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  35. Ceilo

    Bahahah first paragraph in... "After using the rover to scooping dirt..." L2Proofread.

    October 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  36. Socal Reaggae


    October 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  37. palintwit

    Tea Party Patriots, especially those living in the south, love shiny little objects. They really like it when the shiny little objects go around in circles. That's why they invented nascar.

    October 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  38. 4sanity

    Mars Rover finds "a shred of plastic material, likely benign."

    Oh oh – does that mean there there aliens there before ? Best set phasers on stun.

    October 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  39. Gallagher



    October 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  40. sam kohen

    Items that probably belongs to Marvin the Martian

    October 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  41. jack

    looks like used Trojans to me.

    October 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  42. Piranha

    We the people will now proclaim this planet the property of NASA, its now open for business. First order of the day, Hotels and Casinos.

    October 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  43. Sam

    send obama there, America weill be better off by subtraction....

    October 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Gallagher

      ^^^Republican Rocket Scientist^^^

      October 19, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  44. Ray

    Thinking about this stuff drives me crazy! A robot is getting to touch material that we most likely never will in our lifetimes. We can't pick up this stuff and examine it with our own eyes. So frustrating!

    October 19, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Majav

      Ray, if that drives you crazy and frustrates you, please get medical supervision asap. Please do not drive in Los Angeles or plan a plane trip- not even to Missouri.

      October 20, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  45. Chris

    Flavor Flav's grill?

    October 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Majav

      his toof

      October 20, 2012 at 9:28 am |
      • Majav

        Most rappers have at least one gold toof in their mouf.

        October 20, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  46. de

    I don't know why people are so passionate on Navada desert pictures.

    October 19, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Majav

      It's Brigham Young's gold tablets. And Nevada has an "e" in it you Moroni!

      October 20, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  47. CNNuthin

    NASA, say that you found Gold. Then make an announcement that you need funding for a few more years to research how to mine, extract and transport it back. You will have a dozen companies ready to endorse the space program. You will never have to worry about Federal Funding Cuts again.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  48. Sgtadam1984

    So, what about the plastic piece they found? Are they going to just start trashing up Mars, too? Why don't we just send all the plastic bottles in the ocean to Mars, while we are at it.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  49. josh rogen

    Mars seems to be a cold dead world unless we transform it to be more like earth which i don't see environmentalist allowing its value to the future is limited. there maybe planets out there more suitable for humans where earth like habitats and ecosystems might survive. we have to start thinking of colony ships where people could survive a 5 to 10 year one way journey

    October 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Majav

      Why in the world should we go and trash Mars? Let's finish trashing it down here first. Got any silly string?

      October 20, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  50. Merlin

    What most people cannot comprehend is the dynamics and complicity of performing controlled analysis on substances in a lab, then attempting to repeat the procedure via remote control to another planet. I don't believe many people appreciate the efforts made for this mission to be a success. But then, many people take for granted the simple wonder a blade of grass...

    October 19, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • super_Nova1403

      your right. man if albert einstine was still alive he would be blow away

      October 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
      • Majav

        His name was ALBERT FEINSTEIN already!

        October 20, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  51. Rick Shultz

    Merlin, from what I learned in geology at UT I am putting my money on this turning out to be iron pyrite. The conditions that I've seen so far at least would seem to lean toward the formation of that mineral. It's POSSIBLE it could be mica but I don't think so.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  52. Mike H.

    Hmmm... a piece of plastic and tiny shiny objects on the Martian surface... ET's poop looks exotic.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  53. Rick Shultz

    Larry I'm sorry but you really can't expect anything different from the caliber of people who post in here. They are wingnuts who are obsessed with politics and don't care what the forum subject really is. To them, it's just a blank space where they can trumpet their crazy politics.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  54. Clete

    Despite most of the comments posted. It is probably not gold or diamonds, nor is it where Mitt Romney is hiding money. More than likely it is a silicon based mineral, either quartz or even more likely Mica.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Rick Shultz

      Clete I doubt seriously that this is mica. On Mars it is MUCH more likely to be iron pyrite.

      October 19, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
      • Clete

        Good catch..oxygen in the early atmosphere would have combined with iron to produce iron pyrites, which do shine in the light.

        October 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
      • Majav

        Where have you guys been? Everyone in the universe knows that little green men from Mars crapped copper.

        October 20, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  55. Merlin

    It appears some folks just can't help making political comments. I, for one, would prefer a more stimulating scientific discussion and leave political comments to more appropriate topic posts. We should be very interested in the results gathered by the rover. Since space technology innovation has been the forefront of technological advances, it would seem logical to continue these efforts for both science and technology. I'm very curious to see what the analysis yields.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • GAW

      I know it's sad but this is what happens rednecks have computers.

      October 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
      • Majav

        No rednecks have smart phones. Only throwbacks have computers now.

        October 20, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  56. He

    The implications of finding an ancient waterbed on another planet are really incredible. No longer can any logical person say, with confidence, that Earth is the only place that houses life. While we may not have found life on Mars, we have found evidence of the next best thing – the foundation upon which it is build.


    October 19, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Fat Fella

      And the rover has only been there for a couple of months!

      October 19, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  57. Daniel

    I am beginning to think there is not much on Mars.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  58. citizenUSA

    They're just those "old school" soda and beer can pull tabs.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Amish Armada

      I think they found a few cigarette butts up there recently.

      October 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  59. High Profit89

    Mars have a potential for human next LIVE..

    My friend's aunt makes $86/hour on the internet. She has been unemployed for 8 months but last month her pay was $14701 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site Air12(dot)com

    October 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • lol

      Hi! I'm your friend's Aunt. Your lying and please don't talk about me anymore or my Nephew will hurt you.

      October 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
      • Majav

        Isn't your nephew still in jail?

        October 20, 2012 at 9:40 am |

    An ancient dump...Same stuff someone will find on earth someday...

    October 19, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • lol

      Probably right...does the Mars stuff say Made in China too?

      October 19, 2012 at 11:58 am |
      • super_Nova1403

        LOL thats funny! 😀

        October 19, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  61. lol

    I hope they're diamonds so we can slave labor and kill people for those too. Lord knows we can't have enough bling! Silly humans. ;(

    October 19, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • venom wus here

      humans are so foolish. killing your own race for cash putrate filth

      October 19, 2012 at 11:52 am |
      • super_Nova1403

        i do say that is true but dont be crule to us about it, be crule to mitt romney hes the one hideing all his crap there

        October 19, 2012 at 11:54 am |
      • lol

        But it's shiny! Gotta have! Maybe they can make better iphone's with it?

        October 19, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  62. resawven

    what ever it is, shoot it with the laser.

    October 19, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  63. Shiny object found on Mars

    Hey guys. its just me being shiny and all. Hope y'all don't come here and try to uproot me and my family.

    October 19, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  64. enigmatic1

    Wondering why they chose a 1909 penny for the calibration target. Any thoughts?

    October 19, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • lol

      psssshh, you don't think NASA would use a cheaper 2001 penny do you? Remember this is $20,000 for a hammer NASA we're talking about here...surprised they didn't used a 1804 silver dollar.

      October 19, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Rick Shultz

      I can only think that this was for some symbolic reason but for what exactly I don't know. I do that the 1909 s Victor D. Brenner penny is worth quite a bit money, and is quite rare.

      October 19, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
      • enigmatic1

        right, which is why it makes no sense to me. NASA just likes to blow money on rare pennies to send to Mars?? In some way that wouldn't surprise me. My guess is that this is a subtle clue that this is all fake. Either that or space travel reverses time and the penny lost 102 years!

        October 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
      • Rick Shultz

        Nah. I don't think it's fake, but I DO agree that it's stupid to waste an expensive coin like that. I wouldn't have done it myself but they didn't ask MY opinion on what they should used as a calibration target. I think I could have come up with something a little better though.

        October 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  65. Dasea

    man this on earth and they are yanking our chain

    October 19, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  66. goofball66

    Shrapnel from Superman II

    October 19, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  67. DiFri

    Picture #4 looks like a piece of the side of a condom wrapper.

    October 19, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • super_Nova1403

      LOLOLOLOL IT DOES NOT BUT YOU JUST MADE MY DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀

      October 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  68. rosie

    Sounds like flecks of mica. It has those properties and can be found all over the Earth. It is definitely part of the soil formation process and is often associated with clay soils. Often when light hits the surface of a fleck of mica it can appear golden in color and is often mistaken for gold in stream water when people pan for gold. Difference with gold is that mica is flat while gold tends to form odd shapes sometimes resembling small stones or sand grains.

    October 19, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Fat Fella

      Fool's Gold? Mars is made of Fool's Gold?

      October 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Rick Shultz

      Rosie, given the conditions we find on Mars now and what was likely the conditions in the past, the evidence points more toward the formation of Iron pyrite rather than mica. The past atmosphere had a signicantly higher oxygen content which would have reacted with iron oxides to produce iron pyrites. I think we are seeing plain old "fools gold" here. Also, the brightness is not uniform, which says to me that this is not a sillicate crystaline structure. In addition you most often find mica in a sheet rather than single granules as we are seeing here.

      October 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  69. mike

    Why is the penny from 1909?

    October 19, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  70. Pete Watkins

    Think of all the future CVS / Walgreen locations and massive subdivisions filled with boomers throughout Mars!

    October 19, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  71. Like a BOSS

    Curiosity in the sky with Diamonds!

    October 19, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Amish Armada


      October 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  72. Skeptimist

    From an old man's perspective, the experience of the first 55 years of the "space age" prompts a few thoughts. Long-term human survival beyond the extremely narrow limits of Earth's biosphere is highly improbable and prohibitively expensive. Therefore, robotics seems to be the best solution for efficient exploration. But there will be no human society capable of pursuing that if we do not direct more attention to exploring the consequences and correction of our failures as stewards of our children and the environment we leave them. Technical intelligence is a poor bet to outlive ethical stupidity.

    October 19, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  73. jane

    Probably just plastic Walmart bags reflecting in the soil.

    October 19, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  74. HorseWithNoName

    My shiny things! MINE! You can't have my shiny things!

    October 19, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • rosie

      Sholazar Basin.

      October 19, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  75. Griffin

    What the hell is benign plastic?

    October 19, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Leisure suit Lary

      Plastic that is free of cancer?

      ... actually, I think it's their way of saying that it has nothing to do directly with Mars or the mission because it actually came from the rover itself.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:57 am |
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