PHOTOS: Top 10 Weirdest Mars Illusions and Pareidolia
Cosmic ray hits are all too familiar in observations acquired by space instrumentation. Even on the surface of Mars, high-energy particles can penetrate deep into the thin atmosphere, causing hot spots on robotic camera CCDs. It just so happened that this particular bright spot sits above the Martina landscape, adding to the impression that it is a real light-emitting phenomenon.
But there's an even more exciting possibility, as Maki points out. The light could be a reflection from a particularly shiny rock surface, as the bright light has been spotted in approximately the same location on two different days at around the same time in the day.
By the reckoning of Curiosity's mission scientists, the location of the possible shiny rock was around 160 meters from the rover's April 3 position.
Year One: Mars Rover Curiosity's Key Discoveries
The rover's Navcam is composed of two different cameras (a left ‘eye' and a right ‘eye') that can provide stereo views of the Martian surface. Usually any strange objects that are detected appear in both cameras, making the identification of anything weird fairly easy. But the April 2 and April 3 detections were made through the right camera only.