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Jelly doughnut rock Mars: 'Pinnacle Island' stone examined, high in 3 elements

A jelly doughnut rock on Mars is one strange news story that space experts remain baffled by this week, though new evidence on this stone — being called “Pinnacle Island” by researchers — is now being examined and yielding even more peculiar results. Scientists have recently discovered that the foreign object is in fact high in 3 elements in particular: sulfur, magnesium, and manganese. Fox News reports this Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, that the purpose or sudden emergence of this small stone remains an utter mystery, but hopefully a mystery that may be cracked in the near future.

Strange rock on Mars looks like a jelly doughnut
NASA Twitter, Arizona State University (Daily Mail)

The jelly doughnut rock, as it is being affectionately called for looking quite like the sweet dessert, is in fact one of the oddest things on Mars that space experts have ever come across on the distant planet. The stone randomly appeared before NASA’s Opportunity rover last week, and has remained a source of interest and speculation ever since. First spotted this Jan. 8, experts quickly realized that this stone had not existed in the same location only 13 days before.

“Pinnacle Island” is the name of this strange rock being examined, and the foreign object can be clearly seen as a whitish color on the outer surface, while bearing a reddish color toward its center. The “jelly doughnut rock Mars” spectacle was first called as such by a lead scientist in the Opportunity rover’s mission, Steve Squyres.

"It looks like a jelly donut," said Steve Squyres, the rover's lead scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., during a recent NASA event marking Opportunity's 10th year on Mars. "And it appeared, it just plain appeared, at that spot and we haven't driven over that spot."

A more in-depth examination of the mysterious rock revealed quite a bit more about this tasty-looking stone as well, bearing high levels of 3 elements that aren’t normally seen together, especially on a distant planet like Mars.

"It's like nothing we ever seen before. It's very high in sulfur, very high in magnesium, it has twice as much manganese than anything we've seen on Mars," Squyres said with excitement in last week's Jan. 16 event. "I don't know what any of this means. We're completely confused, [but] we're having a wonderful time."

How, then, did this Pinnacle Rock — this jelly doughnut stone from Mars, if you will — actually appear in its mysterious emergence in front of the Opportunity? Two theories have emerged so far: one is that the bit of rock is simply a stray bit of debris from an impact crater located not far from the crater that simply fell in its way. The second theory is that the stone was actually struck by the travelling rover’s wheels and scattered in front of its passage.

"That's the more likely scenario," Squyres said of the wheel-driven notion. "The crater ejecta one, I don't really believe. I think that the idea that somehow we mysteriously flicked it with the wheel is the best explanation."

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