Rover Spies 'Earth-Like' Scene
Gale Crater reminiscent of Mojave Desert: scientists
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2012 7:50 AM CDT
This image released on Wednesday Aug. 8, 2012 by NASA, shows a mosaic of the first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface.   (AP Photo/NASA)

(Newser) – Curiosity may have landed in a Martian crater, but it could just as easily be somewhere in California, say scientists who have studied the photos and video it has beamed back to Earth. With mountains visible in the distance—through the hanging haze—the scene from the Gale Crater looks like something out of the Mojave Desert, they observe. "The first impression that you get is how Earth-like this seems looking at that landscape," says one scientist. Of course, there is at least one wee difference, reports the AP: This desert happens to be a frigid one, and is constantly bombarded by radiation to boot.

The photos have captured something else, too, reports the Los Angeles Times: a mysterious "blotch" popping up on the horizon, taken seconds after landing. But in photos taken two hours later, the blotch is nowhere to be seen ... leading many to believe that it happened to capture the spacecraft that ferried it to Mars crashing in the distance. This would be an "an insane coincidence," in the words of one engineer, considering scientists were unable to control exactly where it landed, which direction it would face, or when it would start taking photos. The Times talks to doubters, and explains why the mystery may never be solved; click for more.