Is it coral? Is it a flower? False: It’s a small mineral formation on the red planet.

This week’s satellite image is a beautiful snapshot of the spacecraft on Mars, Curiosity. The rover spotted coral reefs on the Red Planet late last month. In fact, we’re looking at a small mineral formation here.

This isn’t the first time these structures have been found on Mars. Planetary scientist Abigail Freeman of the Mars Curiosity team shared the images of similar formations on the Barump Hills At the foot of Mount Aeolus Mons. Here are the formations made of sulfate.

Not only the corals, but also the two spheres on the right are mineral formations. These look pretty big, but appearances can be deceiving. Corals are smaller than one US penny (one cent). A penny is a fraction larger than a euro cent coin. Below is a comparison.

Curiosity’s magnifying glass at work
The image was taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager aboard the Curiosity rover. This camera is located at the end of her robotic arm. The camera can be better compared with the magnifying glass of a geologist. The rover can take close-up pictures of sand grains, rock textures and – in this case – metal structures.

Exploring a time capsule on Mars
Curiosity landed in Gale Crater in August 2012 and revealed many of the crater’s secrets in recent years. For example, the rover has found strong indications that the pit was filled with water in the past. This explains why mineral formations are now also detected. At the heart of the crater is Mount Aeolis Mons, or Mount Sharp. This mountain consists of sedimentary deposits and is in fact a time capsule: each layer tells something about a different period in the history of Mars. Curiosity is currently conducting a thorough investigation of this mountain. Hopefully, this will teach us a lot about the Red Planet’s past.

Over the past decades, space telescopes and satellites have captured beautiful images of nebulae, galaxies, stellar nurseries, and planets. Every weekend we remove one or more great space images from our archives. Enjoy all the pictures? check it out on this page