Did NASA Just Reveal New Faces on Mars?
At 15:45:01 UTC on August 17th (Mars Sol 1077), NASA’s Curiosity Rover captured super-high-resolution images of the surface of Mars, appearing to contain what might look like numerous faces. These photographs were then stitched together and uploaded to Gigapan, giving users a closer look at the rover’s panorama. This screenshot was released by a user last week, sighting what has been described on social media as a “massive alien grave site.”
According to NASA, “Curiosity sends back raw images for current and prior Sols based on commands sent by the mission team. The rover uses orbiters to relay back a lot of its data, and maximizes each opportunity when they pass by overhead. Curiosity stores any data not transmitted onboard.”
Where was Curiosity that day?
While data for Curiosity’s exact location is missing from Mars orbiter maps along with Sol’s 1075 and 1076, a pathway is drawn in yellow revealing the area in which the rover traversed on its way toward Mount Sharp. According to NASA’s description about the reconnaissance orbiter imagery, “From Sol 1074 to Sol 1078, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 93.74 feet (28.57 meters).”
One of Curiosity’s ChemCam astrogeologists describes some of the events during the day when the photo was taken:
“Later in the afternoon on Sol 1077, ChemCam has a calibration observation and Mastcam has another observation of “Alberton” to try to see textures highlighted by the lower sun angle. Navcam also has a couple more observations, watching for clouds and dust devils.”
Later, NASA reported that ChemCam analyses revealed these areas to contain significantly higher amounts of elements silica and hydrogen than previously expected.
Faces on Mars: Pareidolia?
Though numerous other glimpses of potential alien life have been observed, NASA still denies such claims. Due to the sun’s angle in this photo, it is likely that the reported ‘faces’ are a similar anomaly; both a trick of light casting shadows on surrounding rocks, combined with a psychological phenomenon called pareidolia allowing our minds to seek pattern recognition in random objects. Pareidolic pattern recognition is thought to be a central element of human evolutionary survival against unseen predators in the wild.
The original image content can be viewed on NASA JPL’s Curiosity mission homepage.
The Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory mission launched on November 26, 2011 from Cape Canaveral and landed on August 6, 2012. The rover’s rough landing due to its substantial weight caused the rover to lose communications between the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and NASA JPL for approximately 7 minutes, dubbed “the 7 minutes of terror.” Since then, Curiosity has traversed approximately 7 miles from its landing in Gale Crater. So far, the 2.5 billion dollar lab mission has been heralded as a success.
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