Technical Overview: ‘Stonehenge’ Discovered on Mars?

Screenshot from a video analyzing the alleged 'Marshenge' photograph, alongside an overhead view of Stonehenge located in Wiltshire (NASA HiRISE/Youtube)

Screenshot from a video analyzing the alleged ‘Marshenge’ photograph, alongside an overhead view of Stonehenge located in Wiltshire (NASA HiRISE/Getty/Youtube)

‘Stonehenge’ Discovered on Mars?

This year has seen an abundant amount of mysterious discoveries both here on Earth and in outer Space; from a Superhenge in Britain to countless geological formations of interest discovered across our tiny solar system.

Recently, the internet has turned its attention to a peculiar grouping of rocks on the red planet which appear uncannily similar to the visible portions of the ever-famous Stonehenge back here on Earth.

Mars anomaly hunters spotted what was subsequently dubbed as “Marshenge” in a photograph, estimated to have been taken by the HiRISE instrument on-board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in the same grouping of photos listed on University of Arizona’s servers uploaded in a directory on September 24th of 2012.

The suggested 'Marshenge' (Youtube)

The suggested ‘Marshenge’ (Youtube)

While some resources point out that Curiosity has already blasted an inch-long structure with its laser chemcam labeled “Stonehenge” in the Zephyr region, this grouping of rocks certainly appears to look quite different.

Technical Details of the Original Photo Set

On the NASA HiRISE site, this photo grouping is presented with the description, “Possible Rhythmites in Nilosyrtis Mensae.”

The full-resolution image of this area can be downloaded here.

These are the coordinates of the photograph as listed on the HiRISE site:

Acquisition date: 24 September 2012 Local Mars time: 3:28 PM
Latitude (centered): 28.064° Longitude (East): 75.956°
Range to target site: 288.6 km (180.4 miles) Original image scale range: 28.9 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~87 cmacross are resolved
Map projected scale: 25 cm/pixel and North is up Map projection: Equirectangular
Emission angle: 7.3° Phase angle: 63.9°
Solar incidence angle: 57°, with the Sun about 33° above the horizon Solar longitude: 177.2°, Northern Summer
For non-map projected products:
North azimuth: 97° Sub-solar azimuth: 346.7°
For map-projected products
North azimuth: 270° Sub solar azimuth: 161.6°

In addition, NASA, JPL, the US Geological Survey and Arizona State University provide a context map in cooperation with the Mars Google Maps project which allows users to explore the region. An interactive version of the map can be accessed with markers here or through the main Google Maps Mars Project site, here.

Screen capture of map containing the alleged "Marshenge" structure. (Google Maps/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS)

Screen capture of map containing the alleged “Marshenge” structure. (Google Maps/NASA/JPL/ASU/USGS)

Aside from these map points, enhanced-color images of Nilosyrtis Mensae are also quite striking.

A striking image of Bedrock shapes by possible fluvial and magmetic processes, eroded by the harsh winds of Mars, which travel at about 100 times the velocity of winds on Earth due to atmospheric differences. (NASA/JPL/Arizona State University)

A striking image of bedrock, shaped by possible fluvial and volcanic processes, eroded by the harsh winds of Mars, which travel at about 100 times the velocity of winds on Earth due to atmospheric differences. (NASA/JPL/ASU)

About Nilosyrtis Mensae

The region of Mars north of the Syrtis Major volcanics and the Isidis impact basin has well-exposed bedrock with diverse compositions. These regions are dark so the colors aren’t well seen except with a sensitive imager like HiRISE and special processing.

The blue and green colors are generally due to mafic (magnesium and iron rich) minerals that are not altered by water, while the warmer colors are due to altered minerals like clays. The structure in this scene is quite complex from a combination of impact and perhaps fluvial and volcanic processes, tectonic faulting, and erosion.

The terrain is very old and has experienced a complex geologic history.”

About HiRISE

According to NASA,

(HiRISE)… makes observations at near-infrared wavelengths to obtain information on the mineral groups present. From an altitude varying between 200-400 kilometers (about 125 to 250 miles) above Mars, HiRISE will return surface images that contain individual basketball-sized pixel elements (30-60 centimeters, or 1 to 2 feet wide), allowing surface features 4-8 ft across to be determined (resolved). These new, high-resolution images will provide unprecedented views of layered materials, gullies, channels, and other science targets, as well as characterize possible future landing sites.”

Analysis

Skeptics cite pareidolia as well as similar random stone ‘groupings’ in the original photo near craters as a result of innumerable asteroid impacts dotting the Martian surface. While the other items in these images may render “Marshenge” to appear less-enthralling, its certainly understandable from comparisons to the famous Stonehenge in Amesbury that the two share a few uncanny similarities.

Challenge Accepted?

In March of this year, former astronaut and second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin stood in the middle of Stonehenge and made a ‘proclamation’ of sorts to Mars.

Little did he know? Or, perhaps that message was merely received by all of us wishful-thinking adherents to the fantastic tales spun by philosophers of golden-age science-fiction? Will the forthcoming “major” NASA press-briefing on Monday involving the HiRISE team mention anything about this fascinating feature?

What do you think of these amateur findings? Are you more interested in learning about the research aside from these frequently ‘discovered’ anomalies? We’d like to hear from you!

Join in the discussion! Comment, share on Facebook and find us on Twitter, hashtag #DMTalk!

Staff Writer

Leo Ashcraft

A retired broadcast engineer, talk show host, news reporter - I have done everything there is to do in the radio broadcast business. I worked a year in television. I left that as my true passion has always been radio - plus I got tired of hearing - you have a face for radio.. I hope you enjoy my articles! Be sure to share them excessively on facebook - like our page and bug your friends with invites!

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