NASA Discovery: Dinosaur Bones, Bigfoot or Alien Life? Twitter Has Fun With Mysterious Stick Figures Found on Mars

There aren't little green men on Mars who can draw stick figure family portraits—but that doesn't mean there aren't stick figures on Mars. NASA's Curiosity rover, which has been trundling around the red planet for more than five years, spotted what looks strangely like just that, etched in rock. The little robot's beloved Twitter account shared a photo of the formation on January 3.

01_05_mars_curiosity_rocks The strange crystals spotted by Mars Curiosity. NASA/JPL

The rocks around the rover's current hangout piqued scientists' interest even before Curiosity wheeled up to them. The area had been inspected from above by another NASA mission, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the red planet since 2006. Scientists looking through those images of the region had been intrigued by its bluish tint, which seemed contrary to the planet's nickname. The Twitter account also shared a wide shot of the area with the formations highlighted.

The image was snapped by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager, which the scientists use to get up-close images of intriguing rocks—it can pick up features smaller than a strand of hair. Curiosity and its scientists aren't sure yet exactly what caused the strange formations, which are about a quarter inch long. In the original post, the rover team suggests they may be crystals, or perhaps minerals filling in cracks where crystals melted away. But we're pretty sure this suggestion from the rover's evil twin is probably off base.

Of course, denizens of the internet offered plenty of other, equally implausible suggestions about what the mysterious formations might be. We are positive that whatever these stick figures are, they are definitely not the remains of a space dinosaur, Viking runes or tire tracks, no matter how much you might wish they were. Sorry.

In order to try to figure out what they actually are, Curiosity is using a tool called an Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer to analyze the chemical composition of the rocks. The instrument produces a barrage of positively charged helium atoms and X-rays that force elements within the rock to identify themselves by producing a unique energy signature. There is one challenge to using the device, however—it can take two or three hours to detect every ingredient of the rock.

Read more: NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover Watched the Sun Set and It Will Take Your Breath Away

Scientists also want Curiosity to analyze the same rocks with a second instrument, ChemCam, which uses lasers to pulverize tiny amounts of rock and suss out their composition, even from a distance.

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