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6 Spooky Objects and Monsters the Internet Found on Mars
By Evan Dashevsky,
PC Magazine, 14 September 2015.

Ever since Viking 1 beamed back the first images of the Martian surface in 1975, one thing has been abundantly clear: Mars is almost entirely made up of boring orange rocks. Everywhere, as far as the eye can see: Orangey-reddish rocks. Rocks on rocks on rocks on rocks. So many rocks. It's the kind of excruciating monotony that could make a person delusional. And that's kind of exactly what's happened: Mars's agonizing lack of things that aren't orange rocks has driven a portion of the Internet insane.

Let me explain.

For more than a decade, NASA has maintained a squadron of robot explorers on the surface of Mars: Opportunity, which landed in 2004; Spirit which was active from 2004 to 2009; and Curiosity, which landed in 2012. These billion-dollar mechanical pioneers spend their time bumbling around the rocky Martian surface snapping photos of different kinds of Martian rocks. Hundreds of rock photos. (Click here to see just how many photos Curiosity alone sends back on a single Martian day.)

And therein lies a huge cultural disconnect: Decades of science fiction promised us that Mars would be a spellbinding frontier of boundless discovery. And if there weren't Martians to be found, then at the very least, we would find the remnants of a once great Martian society! But, as it turned out, it was mostly just boring orange rocks.

Or is it?


Some people want to believe so badly that Mars is more than just Mad Max B-roll, that they've begun to see things that aren't really there. In a previous era, these desperate believers would have been a lone voice in the abyss, but social media (not to mention pageview hungry bloggers) has helped them spread this delusional X-Files X-foolery.

Much of these geologic mirages are attributable to pareidolia: The ability of the human brain to see patterns - particularly faces - where they don't actually exist (this is what happens when you see objects made out of the clouds, or when you see "the man in the moon"). The brain is a powerful, but far from infallible machine.

These types of Martian delusions go as far back as the Viking missions, when photos taken from orbit caused some observers to see a human face in a Martian mountain range (the so-called "Cydonia Face"). Fast forward to 2015, and this process of discovering Martian life by any means necessary has been put on steroids via a daily stream of high-quality Mars images combined with the unparalleled disseminating power of the Internet.

Here are some of the weirdest (and occasionally spooky) finds from the Martian surface that have driven parts of the Internet insane.

The truth is probably out there. But don't go around looking for it on the Internet.

1. Floating Spoon


This image was captured on Aug. 30 by NASA's Curiosity Rover, and was soon after highlighted in forums for armchair exogeologists. What could possibly be holding this spoon-like object in place? Nothing analogous exists on Earth. Another angle might make more sense of it, but for now it is a giant floating geologic utensil.

2. Is the President a Martian?


This is part of a panoramic image taken from the summit of "Husband Hill" in 2005 by NASA's Spirit rover. This true colour image was taken over the course of three Earth days to deliver a "level of clarity [that] is unequalled in the history of Mars Exploration." And that unparalleled detail that has allowed some on the Internet to find a very familiar object.

Above, you can see a deep zoom on a rocky outcrop that doesn't not look like United States President Barack Hussein Obama. At least that's what some on the Internet think. As of press time, the White House has yet to respond on how the president's visage ended up on the Red Planet.

3. Martian Mermaid


This image was taken by the Spirit rover in 2007 from the Columbia Hills range inside Gusev Crater. Some people claim to see a reclining mermaid-like female figure off in the distance.

4. Martian Ghost Lady


Speaking of Martian ladies, this ghostly figure captured by Curiosity made the Internet rounds in June. Some in the office have said it resembles a weeping angel from Dr. Who.

5. Martian Lizard


Is this a shiny rock or a space lizard!? (It's just a shiny rock. I'm 97 percent sure it's just a shiny rock)

6. Martian Crab Monster


One of the biggest "finds" of recent times was the space crab hiding in the nook of an otherwise desolate rocky outcrop. NASA swears it's just a rock. But that's exactly what NASA would say if they were in cahoots with a race of evil space crabs. Think about it.

Top image: Mars Orbiter camera views the "Face on Mars." Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems.

[Source: PC Magazine. Edited. Top image added.]