Martian flower: Curiosity spots pearl-coloured petals on rock

A peculiar petal-shaped cluster spotted on Mars by NASA scientists has sparked speculation that flowers might be blooming on the red planet.

The so-called "Martian flower" is seen in an image captured by NASA's Curiosity rover last month. In the image, pearl-coloured petals appear to sprout from a rock's surface.

Space fans on online discussion forums remarked that it might be quartz embedded in the rock. One optimistic space fan suggested it might be the pistils of a blooming flower, the New York Daily News reported.

A similar find in October last year had turned out to be a piece of plastic that had fallen from the rover itself.

"But the cluster appears to be part of the rock," NASA spokesperson Guy Webster told the Daily News in an email. "I would guess that the 'flower' was someone's descriptive term for its appearance, not meant as an interpretation that flowers exist on Mars," he wrote.

Unseen space photos released

A large new collection of unique space photos taken at wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye and blocked by Earth's atmosphere has been released as a New Year's gift to the people of Earth by NASA. The photographs have been released by NASA in collaboration with Penn State University. The images have been captured by Swift observatory's Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope that studies ultraviolet light, much of which is blocked by the atmosphere surrounding Earth.

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