In a comparison of recent photographs captured by the rover's panoramic camera, or Pancam, on sol 3528 of the mission, only bare bedrock can be seen. But on sol 3540, a fist-sized rock had appeared (raw Pancam images can be found in the mission archive). MER scientists promptly nicknamed the object "Pinnacle Island."
"It's about the size of a jelly doughnut," Squyres told Discovery News. "It was a total surprise, we were like 'wait a second, that wasn't there before, it can't be right. Oh my god! It wasn't there before!' We were absolutely startled."
But the rover didn't roll over that area, so where did Pinnacle Island come from?
Only two options have so far been identified as the rock's source: 1) The rover either "flipped" the object as it maneuvered or, 2) it landed there, right in front of the rover, after a nearby meteorite impact event. The impact ejecta theory, however, is the least likely of the two.
"So my best guess for this rock ... is that it's something that was nearby," said Squyres. "I must stress that I'm guessing now, but I think it happened when the rover did a turn in place a meter or two from where this rock now lies."