William Shatner, Captain Kirk from Star Trek, had a pressing question for the space agency about a strange glow seen in an image from Mars.
"What is the shiny bluish light to the right?" Shatner tweeted after seeing a NASA GIF showing the InSight lander's seismometer settling into position on the surface of the Red Planet.
The blue light appears in quite a few of the images the lander has sent back. NASA offered this explanation: "Just a bit of lens flare as the sun dips low on the horizon." The photos used for the seismometer GIF were both taken shortly before sunset.
The lens flare explanation inevitably led to a mention of director J.J. Abrams, famous forin sci-fi movies.
InSight landed on Mars on Nov. 26, 2018 and has settled in to study the planet's interior, including taking stock of marsquakes with its seismometer. NASA hopes to learn more about how rocky planets are formed.
The eye-catching blue lens flare is just one more item in a long line of strange Mars sightings that actually have innocuous explanations. Last year, the Curiosity roverthat turned out to be a rock and the that was caused by a sand dune in a crater.
The InSight team has been tweeting in first person as though the lander itself is composing the messages, which makes the exchange between Captain Kirk and the Mars machine all the more endearing.