Black and white mast camera image from Curiosity Mars rover shows a funky shaped smooth-topped rock shaped like a plucked chicken with legs extending backward.

Curiosity’s mast-mounted camera snapped this goofy rock on Jan. 28, 2023.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

I’m easily amused, especially when it comes to the potent combination of Mars rocks and pareidolia (seeing familiar objects in random shapes). I love to scroll through raw images sent back by NASA’s rovers and let my imagination fly. Which is how I came across what I’m calling the funky-chicken rock.

Black and white Mars ground photo shows roughish terrain with a prominent but small and vaguely chicken-shaped rock casting a shadow below its drumstick.Black and white Mars ground photo shows roughish terrain with a prominent but small and vaguely chicken-shaped rock casting a shadow below its drumstick.Enlarge Image

Funky chicken rock looks a bit less chicken-y in this broader view from Curiosity’s navigation camera.


NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Curiosity rover’s mast-mounted camera snapped a nice closeup of the rock on Jan. 28. The rock’s shape and the fortuitous fall of shadows help it resemble a plucked raw chicken with legs flopping out. It joins an already stellar lineup of food- and animal-related Martian sightings that include a loaf cat, some spaghetti-like debris, a jelly doughnut and a fish rock.

It can be tricky to judge the size of rocks from rover images. A broader landscape view from Curiosity’s left navigation camera on Jan. 30 gives the rock a little more context. It’s certainly much smaller than a typical chicken in a supermarket.

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A tangled, string-like object sits on the sandy brown Martian ground with a rock nearby.A tangled, string-like object sits on the sandy brown Martian ground with a rock nearby.
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Curiosity has been exploring the Gale Crater on Mars and its central mountain — Mount Sharp — since 2012. It’s currently in a spot with some stunning views revealing rivulet-like formations across the ground and mysterious out-of-place¬†rocks that might be meteorites.

The rover is on a quest to understand if past Mars might have been hospitable for microbial life. Its sibling Perseverance rover is tackling that question and more over in the Jezero Crater. The wheeled machines have a shared loved of photography. Percy’s cat rock may never meet Curiosity’s chicken rock, but both of them have given me some much needed moments of Mars delight.¬†

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