Mars rock circle in tabloids

A Mars Curiosity image of a “rock circle” has appeared in the British tabloids in the last few days,  touted by “alien hunters” to be an artifact of some kind .

The NY Post gave secondary coverage and carefully stated that it was “recently found” among the images by said “hunters.”

From the setting, I could see that it did not match the recent terrain being covered ( we’re up to sol 1734, ) and I did spend a little time looking back over the route to find a likely spot. I was pretty lucky, although I will credit my intuition, as I found it as a Mastcam image from sol 528

In fact, this image was evidently not a chance acquisition, since they immediately acquired this followup image, also on sol 528

Here we get a more detailed view, and it looks somewhat more “natural”, I think, with noticeable irregularities. Then, on sol 529, they actually “moved in for a look” and acquired this image

Here you can start to get an idea of its formation. It seems to be sort of a disk with the center scoured low, like a lozenge. Of course, this is just one small feature! From what I understand, the landscape as we see it is formed almost exclusively by very slow erosion from the dust storms.

BTW, the images were acquired on 2014-01-30 13:53:37 UTC,  2014-01-30 13:54:26 UTC, and  2014-01-31 15:46:03 UTC, over three years ago.

Also, here is the section of the path showing the location

The “dog-doo”

This is the name which occurred to me when I saw this feature, and true to my habit, I’m sticking with it. Here it is in a sol 1700 Mastcam shot, which I already included in a panorama linked in “Ozymandias”, below.

It does seem to be a distinctive feature. The darker blobby looking rock on the top doesn’t seem to fit with the more predominant thinly layered rock, which are easily seen as eroded remnants of dust-formed strata.

Well, at this point ( sol 1700 ) I had high hopes that Curiosity would make a bee-line for it and do a major examination, but these met with frustration.

Coincidentally, I read at about this time, an ONION article on the “Morbid Curiosity Rover”. Of course this is a pun, and nothing to do with “morbid curiosity”, but a facetious evaluation of  Curiosity’s “morbid” temperament, as note that the official MSL accounts allow for Curiosity to speak in the first person. The Onion found that Curiosity was uncooperative, and even unresponsive, and given to obsessive lingering and drilling activities.

I thought this to be a wry comment on the incompatibility of the inscrutable science campaign with the preferences of those of us more concerned with sight-seeing.

So these thoughts came to the fore as Curiosity roved closer and closer to the “dog-doo”, but seemed to deliberately eschew imagery of it. I thought, and still think, that it was partly because it was up-slope from Curiosity, and the imagery had a tendency to pan on a level plane, so that we were treated to extensive views of “where it had been” but the looming features ahead, including the “dog-doo”, were chopped off at the ankles. ( If you don’t believe me, check it out! )

Well, there were a few Navcam shots, but this feature was obviously not a target, and at closest approach, Curiosity veered to the east, and focused on other things, this to my ultimate frustration, I thought.

But then, there was a late adder to the sol 1726 SUBFRAME products from the Mastcam. These are monochromatic, and have a funky grid superimposed, but OTOH, are highly detailed, and feature a magnificent view of the “dog-doo” at the extreme right.

Accordingly, I offer this truncated version of what is approximately a 180 degree panorama, consisting of  2 of the 20 component images:

In, I used just a “tetch” of Gaussian blur ( a minimal setting of 1 ) to alleviate the crosshatching of the “grid”, and gave it a sepia tint, which I modified with a slight reddening of the hue.

“You’re in the shop!”