NASA update about the ‘shiny knob’ in Curiosity photo

Close-up view of the "hammerhead" object. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Close-up view of the “shiny knob” protruding from the bedrock.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

NASA has posted an update of sorts regarding the “shiny knob” seen in a recent Mastcam image taken by the Curiosity rover. This is the one previously referred to here as the “hammerhead” due to its shape.

The shiny-looking protrusion from a rock has been the subject of a lot of discussion. It looks like a piece of metal sticking out of the rock. So what is it?

According to the update, it may be a ventifact, where a portion of the rock, composed of a different and harder material, has been left standing after the softer rock around it has been eroded over time. The NASA article links to another PDF explaining this. Hopefully some closer images can be taken after the drilling tests are finished, as it’s not very far from the rover. Regardless of its origin even, it’s an interesting and peculiar little thing! Until then, the speculation will be sure to continue…

What do you think it is? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Thoughts? Leave a comment below!