Sorry, this NASA Mars Rover image does not show a flying UFO

This story is part of Welcome to Marsour series exploring the red planet.

Every morning I take time to flip through the raw images of Mars that have been sent back from NASA’s rovers. I ooh and ah over the rock formations and sometimes spot something silly, like a mysterious black object floating in a Perseverance Rover image from Sunday.

The image is from Percy’s left navigation camera. It shows a striking rock-strewn landscape and a hazy sky in which the dark object appears.

So what’s going on here? They aren’t aliens. A Reddit discussion of the image in a group dedicated to Mars prompted some humorous take on what it might be, like an ant or a plastic bag. The black shape resembles a speck of dirt or a piece of debris flying over Jezero Crater, but it’s neither of those things.

The dark object in the sky does not actually exist. This is due to an issue with camera artifacts called “bad” pixels. “They are caused by micron-sized debris on the detector. Most/all imagers have these types of artifacts,” imaging scientist Justin Maki said in an emailed statement from NASA JPL. “They are generally only noticeable when the camera is capturing images of the sky or an otherwise flat radiometric surface.”

If you’re not convinced, check out another left Navcam image from Sunday. The same dark stripe appears, but this time in the middle of a sandy landscape.

Another shot from Percy’s left navcam. Also not an unknown object on Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Red Circle by Amanda Kooser/CNET

The bad pixel problem has appeared at other times. NASA’s Curiosity rover, exploring Gale Crater in another area of ​​Mars, imaged a similar “sky object” in early October. As with Percy’s picture, it appeared as a dark speck floating in the air.

Perseverance’s camera team members wrote a blog post last year addressing the “strange little black spot” artifacts related to the rover’s mast-mounted cameras. Image processors are aware of the problem pixels and correct them. We see the spots in the raw images sent back from the rovers because the photos have not yet been cleaned up.

Perseverance has been a resident of Mars since early 2021 and has already seen many strange real-life objects, such as: this spaghetti-like wreckage and a shiny piece of foil Remnants of his landing operations.

Camera spots are part of the life of Mars rovers. Our technology is amazing, but it’s not perfect. If anything, it’s a reminder of just how impressive a feat the Rovers are. Mobile laboratories. On the Mars. Send snapshots home almost every day. Wow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *