That is Not a UFO in This NASA Mars Rover Picture. This is What It Actually Is


This story is a part of Welcome to Mars, our collection exploring the pink planet.

Each morning, I make time to flick thru uncooked pictures of Mars despatched again by NASA’s rovers. I ooh and ah over the rock formations, and typically spot one thing goofy, like a mysterious black object hovering in a Perseverance rover picture from Sunday. 

The picture comes from Percy’s left navigation digicam. It reveals a putting rock-strewn panorama and a hazy sky the place the darkish object seems.

So what is going on on right here? It isn’t aliens. A Reddit dialogue of the picture in a gaggle devoted to Mars resulted in some humorous takes on what it may be, like an ant or a plastic bag. The black form resembles a speck of grime or a bit of particles flying over Jezero Crater, nevertheless it’s not any of these issues.

The darkish object within the sky does not truly exist. It is a results of a digicam artifact difficulty known as “dangerous” pixels. “They’re brought on by micron-sized items of particles on the detector. Most/all imagers have these sorts of artifacts,” imaging scientist Justin Maki mentioned in an e mail assertion from NASA JPL. “They’re usually solely noticeable when the digicam acquires pictures of the sky or some in any other case flat radiometric floor.”

Should you’re not satisfied, try one other left Navcam picture from Sunday. The identical darkish streak seems, however this time it is in the course of a sandy panorama.

One other shot from Percy’s left Navcam. Additionally not an unidentified object on Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Pink circle by Amanda Kooser/CNET

The bad-pixels difficulty has reared its head at different instances. NASA’s Curiosity rover, which is exploring the Gale Crater in a unique space of Mars, snapped the same sky “object” in early October. As with the Percy picture, it appeared as a darkish spot floating within the air.

Perseverance digicam workforce members addressed the “odd tiny black speck” artifacts in a weblog put up final 12 months in relation to the rover’s mast-mounted cameras. Picture processors are conscious of the issue pixels and proper for them. We see the specks within the uncooked pictures despatched again by the rovers as a result of the pictures have not been cleaned up but.

Perseverance has been in residence on Mars since early 2021 and it is already witnessed loads of real-life oddball objects, like this spaghetti-like bundle of particles and a shiny piece of foil left over from its touchdown operations.

Digital camera specks are a truth of life for the Mars rovers. Our expertise is superb, nevertheless it’s not good. If something, it is a reminder of simply how spectacular an achievement the rovers are. Wheeled laboratories. On Mars. Sending snapshots house virtually day by day. Wow.

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