PASADENA ( — Mars rover Curiosity has uncovered bright, shiny particles from a spot where it is collecting samples of dirt.

The rover is collecting Mars dirt in a sandy patch called “Rocknest,” where the bright particles have been confirmed as being as Martian in origin, and not debris from the spacecraft, as was seen nearby previously, scientists said.

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Last Thursday, Curiosity snapped a photo of a small, bright object on the ground beside the rover at the Rocknest site. The object, which was about half an inch long, was determined to be debris from the spacecraft, possibly from the landing.

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This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity shows a small bright object on the ground beside the rover at the “Rocknest” site. The object is just below the center of this image. It is about half an inch (1.3 centimeters) long. The rover team has assessed this object as debris from the spacecraft, possibly from the events of landing on Mars. The image was taken during the mission’s 65th Martian day, or sol (Oct. 11, 2012). (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Curiosity’s scoop of dirt showed a light-toned particle embedded in a clod of soil. Scientists believe this particle to be Martian in origin and the discovery prompted them to continue scooping in the area.

Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera took this image on the mission’s 66th Martian day, or sol, (Oct. 12, 2012) showing part of the hole or bite left in the ground when Curiosity collected its first scoop of Martian soil five sols earlier. A clod of soil near the top center of the image contains a light-toned particle. The observation that the particle is embedded in the clod led scientists to assess this particle as Martian material, not something from the spacecraft. This assessment prompted the mission to continue scooping in the area, despite observations of a few light-toned particles in the area being scooped. The image shows an area about 2 inches (5 centimeters) across. It is brightened to improve visibility in the shaded area. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Monday’s scoop of dirt showed yet another bright particle in the small pit created when the rover collected another scoop of Martian soil. Scientists believe this particle to also be Martian in origin.

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This image shows part of the small pit or bite created when NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity collected its second scoop of Martian soil at a sandy patch called “Rocknest.” The bright particle near the center of this image, and similar ones elsewhere in the pit, prompted concern because a small, light-toned shred of debris from the spacecraft had been observed previously nearby (PIA16230). However, the mission’s science team assessed the bright particles in this scooped pit to be native Martian material rather than spacecraft debris. This image was taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on Curiosity’s arm during the 69th Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Oct. 15, 2012), about a week after the scoop dug this hole. The view here covers an area of ground about 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) across.(credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)