Mystery of the Martian ‘Jelly Doughnut’ Rock – Solved

Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Earth & Space, Sci-Tech with 0 Comments

Ken Kremer | Universe Today | Feb 18th 2014

Images captured by Opportunity show the mysterious rock 'appeared' on an outcrop that had been empty just 12 Martian days ('Sols') earlier

Images captured by Opportunity show the mysterious rock ‘appeared’ on an outcrop that had been empty just 12 Martian days (‘Sols’) earlier

The mystery of the world famous “Jelly Doughnut” rock on Mars has at last been solved by diligent mission scientists toiling away in dank research labs on Earth.


The “Jelly Doughnut” rock achieved worldwide fame, or better yet infamy, when it suddenly appeared out of nowhere in pictures taken by NASA’s renowned Red Planet rover Opportunity in January.

And the answer is – well it’s not heretofore undetected Martian beings or even rocks falling from the sky.

Rather its ‘Alien Space Invaders’ – in some sense at least.

And that ‘Alien Space Invader’ is from – Earth! And her name is – Opportunity!


Indeed sister rover Curiosity may have unwittingly pointed to the culprit and helped resolve the riddle when she snapped a brand new photo of Earth – home planet to Opportunity and Curiosity and all their makers! See the evidence for yourselves – lurking here!

It turns out that the six wheeled Opportunity unknowingly ‘created’ the mystery herself when she drove over a larger rock, crushing it with the force from the wheels and her 400 pound (185 kg) mass.

Fragments were sent hurtling across the summit of the north facing Solander Point mountain top, where she is currently climbing up ‘Murray Ridge’ along the western rim of a vast crater named Endeavour that spans some 22 kilometers (14 miles) in diameter. See traverse map below.

One piece unwittingly rolled downhill.

That rock fragment – now dubbed ‘Pinnacle Island’ – suddenly appeared in pictures taken by Opportunity’s cameras on Jan, 8, 2014 (Sol 3540).

Mosaic of Opportunity and mysterious Pinnacle Island rock by Solander Point peak.  Mysterious Pinnacle Island rock suddenly appeared out of nowhere in images snapped on Sol 3540.  It was absent in earlier images on Sol 3528.  This mosaic shows the rock nearby the solar panels of NASA’s Opportunity rover.  Assembled from Sol 3528 and 3540 pancam raw images.  Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com

Mosaic of Opportunity and mysterious Pinnacle Island rock by Solander Point peak. Mysterious Pinnacle Island rock suddenly appeared out of nowhere in images snapped on Sol 3540. It was absent in earlier images on Sol 3528. This mosaic shows the rock nearby the solar panels of NASA’s Opportunity rover. Assembled from Sol 3528 and 3540 pancam raw images. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com

And that exact same spot had been vacant of debris in photos taken barely 4 days earlier – during which time the rover didn’t move a single millimeter.

Pinnacle Island measures only about 1.5 inches wide (4 centimeters) with a noticeable white rim and red center – hence its jelly doughnut nickname.

The Martian riddle was finally resolved when Opportunity roved a tiny stretch and took some look back photographs to document the ‘mysterious scene’ for further scrutiny.

“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, in a NASA statement.

“We drove over it. We can see the track. That’s where Pinnacle Island came from.”

New pictures showed another fragment of the rock – dubbed ‘Stuart Island’ – eerily similar in appearance to the ‘Pinnacle Island’ doughnut.

Opportunity by Solander Point peak – 2nd Mars Decade Starts here!  NASA’s Opportunity rover captured this panoramic mosaic on Dec. 10, 2013 (Sol 3512) near the summit of “Solander Point” on the western rim of Endeavour Crater where she starts Decade 2 on the Red Planet. She is currently investigating outcrops of potential clay minerals formed in liquid water on her 1st mountain climbing adventure. Assembled from Sol 3512 navcam raw images. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com

Opportunity by Solander Point peak – 2nd Mars Decade Starts here! NASA’s Opportunity rover captured this panoramic mosaic on Dec. 10, 2013 (Sol 3512) near the summit of “Solander Point” on the western rim of Endeavour Crater where she starts Decade 2 on the Red Planet. She is currently investigating outcrops of potential clay minerals formed in liquid water on her 1st mountain climbing adventure. Assembled from Sol 3512 navcam raw images. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com

To gather some up-close clues before driving away, the rover deployed its robotic arm to investigate ‘Pinnacle Island’ with her microscopic imager and APXS mineral mapping spectrometer.

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