Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The Face Of Mars
Posted by Jay at 8:53 PM
On July 25, 1976, Viking Orbiter 1 captured an image that would spark the imagination of millions around the world and reignite the debate of life on Mars and in other worlds outside of earth. The image, dubbed F035A72, showed the Cydonia region of Mars, but it would be infamously known as the image of the face on Mars.
In the upper center portion of the whole image, viewers can see the eerie outline of what appears to be a humanoid face: the shallow cups of the eyes, a pointed peak of a nose that meets the outlines of the lips, and the general symmetry that could only be described as a human face, or at least an alien monument to that effect.
While the picture attracted the attention of the general public, most NASA scientists knew that it was nothing more than a mesa on Mars. Over a dozen years later, better camera equipment showed that this was the case. Images from the Mars Global Surveyor in 2001, the European Space Agency's Mars Express in 2006 and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter using its HiRISE camera in 2007 (the image below) all show that the original face was nothing more than a combination of sunlight hitting the aspect at a particular angle, the camera technology at that time, and most people's tendency to find faces in everyday objects ( a phenomenon known as Pareidolia).
While the myth of the face on Mars has been debunked, that doesn't conclusively mean that extraterrestrial life doesn't exist. With the Mars Science Laboratory set to launch by the end of the year, once can still dream of finding life in space. Who knows, the definitive proof for life on Mars might be found by then.
The original image containing the face on mars (image number TF035A72) can be found on NASA's JPL website. Head on over here to read a detailed account of the discovery and myth, and here and here for even more detailed analysis on the Martian geological feature.