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Curiosity Rover Photographs Mysterious White Light on Mars

The more time we spend driving robots around Mars, the more strange things we’re likely to see. Not the scientific type of strange, such as the massive amounts of methane just found on Mars, but the good, old fashioned “weird light in the distance” type of strange that’s been confounding UFO enthusiasts down here on Earth since the invention of the camera. Well, we’ve got cameras on other planets now, and with it comes unexplained mysterious lights in the distance.

NASA’s Curiosity rover snapped a photograph of the Martian landscape on June 16 that shows a bright white light off in the distance, against the brown sand of the martian dunes. The photograph was taken by one of Curiosity’s “navcams,” two independent black-and-white cameras which act as the rover’s eyes and can take 3D panoramic shots, which NASA scientists use to map the Martian terrain. This photograph was only taken by one of the navcams,  as the other was swiveled towards the rover itself at the time, taking what the Independent calls “some kind of space selfie.” With only half of the navcams snapping the photo, it’s impossible to tell if the strange white light is actually coming from the surface of mars, or if it’s some kind of lens flare or other boring thing. Here’s a picture of the spooky Martian light in all its glory:

Photo taken by Curiosity's right navcam showing the mysterious light.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The light also appeared in only one photo. The photos taken immediately before and immediately after don’t have any trace of it, meaning that whatever it was, it appeared only briefly.

Photo taken by curiosity 13 seconds later.

This photo was take 13 seconds later, and is missing the mysterious light. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The light itself has a shape that does resemble a classic flying saucer UFO, which is surely proof of one thing: NASA’s entire public relations department must have one monster of a karmic debt they need to pay off.  But obviously, and much to the chagrin of these poor scientists, NASA needed to address it, because not doing so would be proof of a cover-up. Justin Maki, who is in charge of the team that built Curiosity’s navcams, says:

“In the thousands of images we’ve received from Curiosity, we see ones with bright spots nearly every week. These can be caused by cosmic-ray hits or sunlight glinting from rock surfaces, as the most likely explanations.”

So, they’ve seen these things before. What else haven’t you told us, Justin? Probably a whole lot of other boring stuff that you never, in a million years, thought you’d have to address. This mysterious light is only mysterious because it’s on another planet and  photographed with a grainy black-and-white camera. It is interesting, however, to think about the absolutely insane amount of mysterious things we’re going to start seeing as the numbers of off-world cameras increase. One thing is for sure, NASA is going to need to increase their PR budget.

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Sequoyah is a writer, music producer, and poor man's renaissance man based in Providence, Rhode Island. He spends his time researching weird history and thinking about the place where cosmic horror overlaps with disco. You can follow him on Twitter: @shkennedy33.