in ,

Infamous ‘Face On Mars’ Poses For New NASA Orbiter Portrait

A space celebrity was born in 1976 when NASA’s Viking 1 mission snapped a scenic Mars landscape from orbit. A distinctive surface feature in the image looked a lot like a face. The imagination-sparking formation became known as the Face on Mars as some humans speculated it may have been sculpted by aliens.

While the face is fun, it’s not an alien art piece. It’s actually an eroded hill. Viking 1 represents the early days of Mars exploration and we’ve since seen better views of the face. The latest comes from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been in residence at the red planet since 2006.

The MRO High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera team at the University of Arizona shared the new image on social media on Wednesday. What you’re seeing is a combination of two images taken in October and November. The result is an anaglyph, a stereo observation that highlights the 3D features of the terrain. You’ll get the most out of the image if you have a pair of red-and-blue 3D glasses to get the depth effect.

Let’s dial back to the image that started it all. Take a close look at the Viking 1 snapshot. You’ll notice lots of black dots all over the place. These are bit errors caused by data that went missing when the spacecraft transmitted the image to Earth. “Bit errors comprise part of one of the ‘eyes’ and ‘nostrils’ on the eroded rock that resembles a human face near the center of the image,” said NASA in an explainer. “Shadows in the rock formation give the illusion of a nose and mouth.”

Still, the face was too compelling and too famous to ignore. In 2001, NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor captured a much higher resolution image that showed just how un-face-like the formation really was. There were no bit errors or odd shadows, just a view of a lumpy hill on Mars.

Humans continue to have fun with Mars images. In more recent years, rovers have sent back photos of all sorts of entertaining rock formations, including a scooped-out avocado-shaped rock and a couple rocks that resemble sea creatures.

Researchers have yet to find any evidence of life on Mars, much less a whole civilization capable of building monuments. However, the search is still underway for signs of ancient microbial life. NASA’s Mars rovers are working on this task and the space agency hopes to one day bring Martian rock samples back to Earth for closer study. That may be our best shot at answering the life-on-Mars question.

While MRO’s recent view of the hill doesn’t look much like a human face, you might think you see another creature in there. “There is something Lion King-esque about this image. Well, that’s pareidolia for you,” the HiRise team wrote. Pareidolia is the human tendency to see familiar objects in random shapes, like spotting a dog in a cloud formation. If you let your imagination run wild, you can see a lion-like face in the Martian hill. NASA’s Mars images have gotten more detailed and less mysterious over the decades, but their ability to inspire flights of fancy endures.

This post was created with our nice and easy submission form. Create your post!

What do you think?

How to take spatial video on the iPhone 15 Pro

How to take spatial video on the iPhone 15 Pro

Etsy is laying off 11 percent of its staff

Etsy is laying off 11 percent of its staff