NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has rolled up on a rocky donut that may have fallen from the sky.
On Friday (June 23), Perseverance snapped a photo of a big, dark stone with a hole in its center. The intriguing rock is surrounded by others of a similar hue, suggesting a common origin — one that may extend beyond Mars.
The donut rock "could be a large meteorite alongside smaller pieces," representatives of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California said via Twitter on Monday (June 26).
Perseverance's raw image was spotted and processed by Stuart Atkinson, who posted a stunning view of the donut rock on Saturday (June 24).
Might be wrong but I reckon @NASAPersevere has spotted a big, ring-shaped meteorite in Jezero crater... Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/S Atkinson pic.twitter.com/k4TUcPgvWyJune 24, 2023
A meteorite find on the Red Planet would not be unprecedented. Perseverance spotted a potential meteorite just a few weeks after its February 2021 touchdown, for example.
Perseverance's discovery isn't the first pastry-like rock that a Mars robot has rolled up on, by the way. In January 2014, NASA's Opportunity rover spied a stone that's white on the outside and red on the inside, prompting mission team members to compare it to a jelly donut.
Perseverance is exploring a 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Mars crater called Jezero, which hosted a big lake and a river delta billions of years ago. The car-sized rover is characterizing that ancient environment, searching for signs of long-ago life and collecting dozens of samples for future return to Earth.
A tiny helicopter called Ingenuity is aiding the big rover's work. Ingenuity rode to Mars with Perseverance and quickly aced its five-flight demonstration mission, which showed that aerial exploration is possible on the Red Planet.
The 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) chopper is now deep into an extended mission, scouting out routes and promising science targets for its robotic partner to study. Ingenuity has performed 51 flights on Mars to date, covering a total of 7.3 miles (11.7 kilometers) of Red Planet ground.