Some red tape from the red planet — with NASA now facing a lawsuit over an alleged Martian rock that looks sort of like a jelly doughnut.
Earlier this week in a California court, astrobiologist Rhawn Joseph filed suit in an attempt to force the American space agency to examine a rock the Opportunity rover first photographed on Mars Jan. 8. (Via U.S. District Court)
His claim? It's alive.
The rock in question is eerily pastry-esque — white on the outside with a red center. According to Opportunity's lead scientist Dr. Steve Squyres, it looks "like a jelly donut." (Via Space.com)
To add to the intrigue, it seems to have appeared out of nowhere in the Jan. 8 shot, while a shot of the same spot from 12 days prior shows no rock. (Via NASA)
Since then, NASA scientists have theorized the rock was simply knocked into the shot by one of the rover's wheels and it is, in fact, just a rock. (Via WPTV)
RT quotes Squyres matter-of-factly saying: "We have looked at it with our microscope. It is clearly a rock."
But that doesn't appear to be good enough for Joseph. He believes it could be a kind of fungus that grew into the shot rather than being physically moved there.
In his petition, he says the rock resembles "a mushroom-like fungus, a composite organism consisting of colonies of lichen and cyanobacteria." (Via U.S. District Court)
And he's now demanding NASA prove him wrong by providing 100 high-resolution photos and 24 microscopic in-focus images of the object's exterior.
Some have called Joseph's expertise into question, including a writer at Vice's Motherboard who described Joseph's credentials as fitting the "archetype of a pseudoscientist."
He also points to the journal the petition itself was published in — a little-known, online-only journal called Cosmology. It claims to study "existence in its totality."
For its part, NASA has only responded to the suit by saying it cannot discuss an ongoing legal matter.
All this isn't to say NASA isn't fascinated by the rock — which has since been dubbed "Pinnacle Island."
"It appears that it may have flipped itself upside down. If that's the case, what we're seeing is a surface, the underside of the rock ... that hasn't seen the Martian atmosphere for perhaps billions of years." (Via The Telegraph)