Mars rover images show round balls, stirring up new conspiracies

NASA's Mars rover has provided humans with a slew of images from the Red Planet and you can freely search through them if you have the free time. That's exactly what some people do, analyzing hundreds of Mars images in search of oddities. Some of those oddities have resulted in big conspiracy theories, but perhaps none are so intriguing as the "metal balls" spotted in some Mars photos.

The images, as with ones before them, were spotted by conspiracy theorists. In them we see spheres that are darker than the surrounding landscape; they look somewhat like dusty metal balls lying in the Martian dirt. You can plainly see the sphere in the image below. Here's a high-resolution B&W version directly from NASA's JPL website. You can check out a colored version here (also shown below).

The spheres were apparently first spotted by conspiracy theory YouTube account "WhatsUpInTheSky37," which creates videos attempting to use images captured by the Mars rover to substantiate claims about past civilizations on Mars. That's par for the course with any image that shows something intriguing; we've seen these kinds of conspiracies before and we'll know doubt hear more of them in the future.

Of course, some spherical balls resting on the Martian landscape is no way proof of ancient Martian wars or even past civilizations. That said, the images are fascinating to see, as they present an element that hasn't been readily apparent in Mars' landscape. It's easy to see how someone could let their imagination run wild. So what are these spherical objects if not signs of an ancient Martian war involving cannonballs?

They appear to be hematite concretions — that is, minerals that form nodules that have an interesting (typically dark) appearance. In fact, a search through NASA's website shows an image of "spherules" captured by the Mars rover Opportunity way back in 2006. These spherules were captured near the Victoria Crater on Mars, with NASA saying that some were also discovered near the Eagle Crater.