Mysterious Light on Mars Captured by Curiosity Probe

The mysterious light appeared over a ridge on the right side of the frame.  (NASA)

The mysterious light appeared over a ridge on the right side of the frame. (NASA)

A recent photograph taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover features a mysterious flash of light that appeared over a ridge on the planet’s surface.

The image was taken by the probe's right "navcam"—one of two cameras that act as stereoscopic 'eyes'. The cameras have a 45 degree field of view and capture black and white panoramic 3D imagery of Mars' terrain. While this photo was taken, the left navcam had swiveled down, a concurrent image taken by it shows parts of the rover standing over the dusty, rocky ground.

Although this image was taken June 16th, NASA has admitted to similar anomalies captured in photographs since Curiosity landed on the Martian surface in 2012. Those are often explained as lens flare, sunlight reflecting off of rocks, or cosmic rays. Many conspiracy theorists, however, believe the mystery lights could represent something else entirely—anything from current alien activity to evidence of a former civilization.

NASA is not particularly concerned by the phenomenon.

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

Whatever it was, it came and went quickly, since the images directly before and after show no such anomaly.

Despite speculation by both believers and skeptics, the anomaly remains unexplained.

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