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Martian 'jelly doughnut' cooks up court case

Friday - 1/31/2014, 2:39pm  ET

Mars_jelly.jpg
This composite image provided by NASA shows before and-after images taken by the Opportunity rover. At left is an image of a patch of ground taken on Dec. 26, 2013. At right is in image taken on Jan. 8, 2014 showing a rock shaped like a jelly doughnut that had not been there before. The space agency said the rover Opportunity likely kicked up the rock into its field of view. Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 and continues to explore. (AP Photo/NASA)

WASHINGTON -- An author interested in martian fungus is cooking up trouble with NASA over an object that resembles a jelly doughnut.

A rock on Mars, which looks like a jelly doughnut, made an appearance before the Mars rover Opportunity in early January. This martian object sparked the curiosity of an author and self-described astrobiologist, Rhawn Joseph, who asked a judge to require NASA to study the rock further.

Joseph is suing NASA over the rock, which he claims is really fungus, according to CNET.com. Earlier this week, Joseph filed the law suit against NASA in the U.S. District Court of Northern California.

NASA isn't as worried about the doughnut as Joseph seems to be. Unlike Joseph's claim, NASA says the rock most likely appeared in Opportunity's view because the rover's wheels kicked it into sight.

However, Joseph objects to NASA's conclusion. In his petition to the court, Joseph argues that the "doughnut" existed before and developed over a 12-day span, as documented in the pictures he provided.

Although Joseph is criticizing NASA for not taking enough close-ups of the object, NASA's head of the Mars rover project, Steve Squyres, says they have looked at it with a microscope and determined, "It is clearly a rock."

WTOP's Omama Altaleb contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

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