Curiosity captures bright light on Mars

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This image was taken by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity's Navcam on April 3. (Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Cal Tech)

This image was taken by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity’s Navcam on April 3. (Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Cal Tech)

A leader of NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover team has offered a couple of explanations for an anomalous bright spot that showed up on pictures from the Red Planet — but they’re not the conventional explanations.

Let’s get this straight first: It’s not an alien spotlight, according to Justin Maki, an imaging scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who is the lead for Curiosity’s engineering cameras. Maki isn’t giving any weight to the not-completely-serious claims that are being bandied about by UFO websites.

At the same time, Maki isn’t writing off the phenomenon as a double-shot of cosmic rays or data dropouts — even though other experts went to that explanation immediately. In his view, that spot of light really did enter Curiosity’s right-hand navigation camera, even though there’s no sign of the spot in the stereo imagery from the left-hand camera.

Instead, Maki and his colleagues think it’s either a well-placed flash of reflected sunlight, or light shining through a chink in Curiosity’s camera housing.

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