Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Facing Facts

On the 25th of July 1976 the Viking One orbiter took what should have been another routine image of the surface, but in fact set in motion one of the best-loved and most intriguing conspiracy theories yet developed. The image was of the so-called "face on Mars", a feature that looked distinctly man (or should that be Martian) made. NASA scientists were in fact the first to make the light hearted observation that it looked like a face, but also were quick to point out that the "face" was simply the result of random chance. The orbiter was looking down on that particular spot in such a way that the sun caught a natural feature and amplified the rock formations into the now iconic features. But the image was just too darn alluring, and set in motion an enduring myth and a mini industry of believers who have since spent considerable energy searching the surface for new features, even after the face was pretty well debunked by subsequent images.

There are now entire websites devoted to finding new anomalies on both the surface of Mars and the Moon, and as the images flood in from Mars, there are rich pickings to be had and plenty of scope to accuse both NASA and the ESA of covering up (doctoring) images to hide what the amateur investigators say is plain and obvious evidence of a alien construction on our neighbouring worlds. It all sounds a little desperate and certainly I think they are seeing what they want to see, (I’ve looked at dozens of these images and just can’t see anything untoward) but I have a little private bet with myself that it might yet be one of these amateurs who spots something that the more strait laced scientific community might overlook or even dismiss.

I certainly don't think they've found anything yet, but look at how web communities (and especially Bloggers) have worked together in recent years to investigate where the media fear (or are too incompetent) to tread - the case in point being the fake documents purporting to show Bush in a bad light during his National Service days. That same energy is being applied to the search for proof of live out there, and it would be just wonderful if some guy (or gal) in their spare room made the big discovery. There are just so many images coming in from Mars at the moment that something might easily slip past the scientists, so watch this space. In the meantime, the ESA have re-imaged the face and produced a lovely and pretty damning 3D movie of the rock formation that started the whole thing off. You can see it on the ESA site.