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Mysterious blotch in photo from Mars rover Curiosity

Conspiracy theorists have worked themselves up into a lather over a mysterious blotch that appeared along the horizon in a photo from the surface of Mars visible in the first black and white photographs taken from NASA's new Curiosity rover as it landed, as two hours later it was gone.

Seconds after the NASA robot's landing Sunday night, Curiosity managed to squeeze off a handful of fuzzy, black-and-white photographs. One, taken with a device on its rear known as a Hazcam, captured the pebble-strewn ground beneath the rover and one of its wheels — and a blotch, faint but distinctive, on the horizon.
The images were relayed by a passing satellite. Two hours later, the satellite passed overhead again. However, two hours later when the satellite made another pass over Curiosity, the rover sent another batch of images that revealed that the blotch had eerily disappeared. They showed the same horizon. The blotch was gone.

Space junkies raced onto the Internet with giddy speculation about the difference between the photos.
One theory put forth by space enthusiasts in the L.A. Times story is that Curiosity had somehow snapped a photo of part of the spacecraft that escorted the rover through the Martian atmosphere crash-landing a distance away.

Furthermore, the rover was acting autonomously, meaning that scientists did not command the robot to photograph the exact views containing the blotch.
Others say more feasible possibilities would be simply dirt on the lens, or maybe a dust devil twisting far in the distance.
But as more images start to pour into NASA, more is being learned about the rover's pinpoint landing.

Curiosity, the largest spacecraft ever sent to another planet, had just sailed through deep space for almost nine months and more than 350 million miles. It landed on its own, meaning scientists had no control over where, exactly, it would wind up, what direction it would be pointed in or when it would snap its first images.

The blotch did look like a billowing plume of some sort, erupting from the horizon. However, one engineer working on the project told the LA Times that 'would be an insane coincidence' and that the shape on the horizon was most likely dirt on the lens.

Images from Mars have always fueled curiosity.
Remember what folks thought was a huge face on Mars? An image from Viking 1 in 1976 that appeared to show a rock formation with eyes, a nose and a mouth? Later high-resolution imaging and side-by-side analysis proved the "face" to be a mesa, like the flat-topped natural formations found in the southwestern U.S.

It is the most expensive and ambitious mission yet to Mars.
Its ultimate destination is a mountain towering from the centre of the crater floor.Before the one-ton, nuclear-powered Curiosity can start roving, it has to undergo several weeks of tedious but essential health checks.

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