Mars’ global dust storm is abating and skies are clearing. NASA’s Curiosity rover, the one that is still operational, has sent back a panorama of its position on the planet, including a rare look at some of its instruments (which are covered in a layer of dust). Researchers say the rover has encountered a mystery on the Red Planet, as well: rocks that are too hard for its drill to bore into. Two attempts at drilling the rocks have failed.
Curiosity rover is currently located at Mars’ Vera Rubin Ridge, where a number of images were taken and later stitched together into a panorama. NASA has uploaded that panorama to YouTube as a 360-degree offering, providing an immersive look at the Red Planet’s landscape. Anyone can interact with it via the video below.
Though interesting, the panorama isn’t NASA’s most exciting update: the space agency has a mystery on its hands. NASA reports that Curiosity rover’s drill tried to drill into particularly hard rocks twice, failing both times, indicating an unusually high level of hardness.
According to the team, the Vera Rubin Ridge presents the greatest level of variation in both texture and color. The area is split into “two distinct sections,” according to Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada. “Some [colors] are visible to the eye and even more show up when we look in near-infrared,” Vasavada explained, “just beyond what our eyes can see. Some seem related to how hard the rocks are.”
The hard rocks are described as something like cement, the attributes of which may have been partly caused long ago in Mars’ past by bodies of water. However, researchers don’t know the composition of the atypically hard rocks at this time and can only speculate until samples are acquired.