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Surface Feature Defies Conventional Morphology

The "Orifice." Note cleanly divided "tiers" radiating from ellipsoidal depression.

Keith Laney has discovered another bizarre Martian surface feature that appears to be a morphological cross between a stadium and a heap of mold. The "Orifice," as I've dubbed the object, features at least five cleanly divided "tiers" reminiscent of giant "stadium seating."

Observers have compared the Orifice's weirdly "organic" shape to sculpture by Henry Moore and H.R. Giger. If the Orifice is artificial, then it might be a work of Martian "abstract art" or it could be a purely functional form suited to unknown purposes. One imaginative scenario is that a hypothetical Martian civilization relied on advanced forms of biotechnology in order to "grow" facilities on the planet's inhospitable surface, much how humans plan to use genetically modified plants to eventually terraform Mars. Obviously, if the Orifice is a genetically engineered construct of some sort, then it's several orders of magnitude beyond terrestrial biotechnology.

This isn't the first large-scale feature on Mars contributed to Martian genetic technology. Richard Hoagland has pointed out some tantalizingly organic-looking formations on Mars that appear far too large to be the result of natural selection. He's posited that the Martians employed an "organic technology" for industrial purposes.

Bright rungs of alleged Martian "tube." Structural biotech or geological features?

If some of the controversial Martian "tubes" prove to be of biological origin, as proposed by Arthur C. Clarke, then they might be the "skeletons" of genetically modified "sandworms" used to process Martian soil.

Sound weird? Certainly -- but perhaps no weirder than the Orifice looks.


Unusual "Cells" Discovered on Mars

Large rectilinear formations discovered by Steve Wingate.

Steve Wingate, proprietor of Anomalous Images, has discovered an interesting grouping of bright rectangular "cells" on the Martian surface. Wingate's formation appears attributable to ruined infrastructure or natural surface fracturing. The cells' brightness is unusual and recalls the Nazca glyphs in Peru. It's entirely possible that the cells are the result of natural forces. But perhaps it wouldn't hurt to look closer, just in case.


Sagan Memorial Station Revisited

When the Mars Pathfinder touched down on Mars, much online speculation centered on the varied shapes of the rocks littering the landing site. Many claimed to see structured, artificial objects. While there was -- and is -- undoubtedly a lot to look at in the Pathfinder panoramas, it's my opinion that nothing visible in the images returned to Earth betrays artificial origin.

The floodplain (colorfully known as the "rock garden") at Sagan Memorial Station. There is some indirect evidence that the Twin Peaks in the distance are eroded artificial structures.

That's not to say that we are looking at purely geological debris. Geologist Ron Nicks has made an interesting, if controversial, case for an artificial origin for the "Twin Peaks" looming on the Martian horizon. His unusual contention is bolstered by the strikingly uniform square base of the otherwise amorphic North Knob a few miles away.

"North Knob" as seen from the Mars Global Surveyor. Note unusual square base.

North Knob's squared base is highlighted by J.P. Levasseur.

In a recent Enrterprise Mission post, Mike Bara and Richard Hoagland return to the terrain surrounding Sagan Memorial Station and identify a Martian "sphinx," supposedly with visible headdress, paws, and crouching body similar if not identical to the Great Sphinx in Egypt.

I will not attempt to conceal my bias: I don't think there's an artificial sphinx a short distance away from the Pathfinder craft. However, the feature in question is vague enough to entice -- and confuse. If it really is a sphinx eternally guarding the eroded Twin Peaks, what is it doing on a floodplain where, as the Enterprise Mission's own Nicks asserts, the hypothetical "casing" on the right-hand "pyramid" was washed away by torrential Martian flows?

If the "sphinx" had been constructed prior to the floods that eroded the Twin Peaks and carpeted the foreground in rocky debris (Pathfinder's "Rock Garden"), why is it still intact? A more likely explanation may be that the "sphinx" is actually a relatively small remnant of a much larger natural feature that succumbed to erosion along with the blunted peaks on the horizon.

My main complaint with the article by Bara/Hoagland is the assertion that the alleged "sphinx" is facing east, like its Giza counterpart. In order to support the notion that the "sphinx" is aligned in a terrestrial manner, the article rationalizes away the plainly visible length of the "sphinx" as being ruined "temples."

Clearly, if the Pathfinder "sphinx" is actually an analogue of the Great Sphinx in Egypt (or the other way around), one must be prepared to address its shape, as well as its possible alignment, alongside that of its earthly cousin. Interestingly enough, the Great Sphinx in Egypt is a weirdly "stretched"-looking work of art, as seen below. Compare the elongated form on top to that of Bara/Hoagland's Martian "sphinx," noting that the proposed "head" is on the right.

Comparison by The Electric Warrior.

Hoagland/Bara's suggestion that the "sphinx" is pointing east requires a significant imaginative leap. Moreover, attributing the unwanted bulk of the Martian landform to additional structures (when there is no differentiation to justify concluding that it is more than one formation) is completely ad hoc and flies in the face of scientific methodology.

Obviously, the hypothesized Egyptian connection only makes sense if the "sphinx" is pointing east. Unfortunately, the best available data suggest that the "sphinx" -- whatever it may prove to be -- is aligned north-south, at odds with presumed Egyptian parallels.

The Pathfinder site reveals a remarkable diversity of forms in its rocks, but nothing that can be credibly cited as evidence of intelligent design. We may in fact be looking at artificial debris when we examine the Pathfinder panoramas. However, we will not likely know this until we are able to explore the weirdly geometric "North Knob" and beckoning Twin Peaks firsthand.


Chasing a Chimera: FACETS Webmaster Dismisses "Sphinx" Commentary

The following text appears on the current "Of Interest" section of the official FACETS (Formal Action Committee for Extra-Terrestrial Studies) website and consists primarily of a rebuttal to the above "sphinx" article by the organization's director Mike Bara (better known as the voice behind Lunar Anomalies and frequent contributor to Richard Hoagland's Enterprise Mission). I have inserted my own comments in (((multiple paretheses))).

(((Bara's remarks are introduced by the FACETS webmaster...)))

"When asked what Michael Bara's opinion was of the article from Mr. Tonnies titled 'Sagan Memorial Station Revisited (July 31, 2001)', Michael addressed a few points not covered in Mr. Tonnies['] statements. Here is what Michael had to say:

"'...[Tonnies] completely fails to address the symmetrical, enclosed 'Face' on the 'sphinx,' which is clearly not natural. The 'temples' are not part of the same object, they are separate. And the layered structural pattern on the pyramids could not be clearer."

(((I think any reasonable, curious person would be hard-pressed to agree with Bara's contention that the features in question are "clearly not natural," i.e., artificial. While Bara maintains that the alleged "sphinx" is separate from what he refers to as "temples," he provides no evidence to support this conclusion. While he could be right, a distinction between the so-called "sphinx" and "temples" is not at all apparent in the image posted on the Enterprise Mission, and Bara supplies no additional data to suggest otherwise. As noted in the article above, construing the alleged east-facing sphinx requires an imaginative leap that's simply not justified given the scant data at hand. Until better imagery is available, the simplest solution -- that the "sphinx" formation is an elongated boulder facing roughly north-south -- remains the most probable.)))

"...As to the flood, if the object is comparable in size to the terrestrial Sphinx, it would not be 'washed away' in the flood that deposited the small objects in the foreground -- it's too big.'"

(((This statement follows on the heels of discussion that the Twin Peaks visible from Sagan Memorial Station are highly eroded arcologies, worn down by flowing water so as to appear tantalizingly like naturally occuring hills. Clearly, if features as massive as the Twin Peaks were reduced to rounded hulks by running water, an exotic explanation is required to explain how the "sphinx" could have survived unscathed. Remember, the Pathfinder spacecraft landed on an extinct floodplain characterized by highly eroded boulders. Are we to accept that an object as relatively minuscule as the "sphinx" somehow shrugged off mountain-stripping geological forces -- and still manages to reveal cat-like anatomical detail? Bara's hypothesis, while entertaining, directly conflicts with the "ruined arcology" model of the Twin Peaks.)))

(((The FACETS webmaster continues...)))

"Michael closed his reply by explaining the difficulty of approximately two thirds of the population to take a 2D image and project it into a 3D image in the minds eye. Michael went on to say '...Most of the rest can be taught how to do spatial projection, but a substantial chunk just will never be able to do it.'"

(((This is a vague dismissal of my interpretation of the "sphinx" based not on the merits of objective evidence, but apparently on the fact that I disagree with Bara. I suppose only a fortunate few are able to see what's really lying on the Martian surface. Without recourse to testable evidence, Bara's lofty dismissal is nothing more than a biased personal opinion. While there is certainly nothing wrong with disseminating opinions (especially in a field as challenging as planetary SETI), they should not be conveyed as scientific fact.)))

(((The webmaster continues...)))

"One common thread found among 'oppositionists' tends to be the lack of evidence to support their findings. Researchers like Michael Bara and Richard Hoagland continue to offer undisputable points of reference and evidence at the time of their commentary. The oppositionists tend to make a statement and then wait for some feedback before attempting to research the facts--often leaving the reader feeling empty and confused. This only proves to distort the facts."

(((Here I am branded an "oppositionist" for not clinging to Bara's demonstrably threadbare case for the Pathfinder "sphinx" and accused of distorting facts by drawing supposedly premature conclusions. The message could not be clearer: shut up and let Bara dictate the nature of Martian surface anomalies; dissenting views, regardless of their logic or forethought, are not acceptable since the "discovery" has already been made.)))

(((In this case, a certain contingent has decided that there is a human-lion sphinx lurking on a Martian floodplain where it has no geological business being. The evidence? A few overblown pixels interpreted by researchers preconvinced of an esoteric Mars/Egypt connection and, apparently, desperate to provide its Web-based audience with flimsy "examples.")))

(((I think we can do better than this. Reality is not predicated on the dubious theories of self-appointed experts, however engaging these theories may be. Rather, scientific truth can be determined only through willingness to democratize data in such a manner that anyone can assess a claim by reproducing the results. Bara, in his retort, has made no indication of defending his colorful "discovery" with real evidence. Until he does so, fanciful notions of Martian sphinxes should be addressed with healthy skeptical restraint. Certainly Mars is interesting enough without populating it with delusion.)))


Evidence of Martian "Explosion"

Image sleuth Keith Laney has discovered interesting radial "blast" markings on the Martian surface that look suspiciously like something you might find on a driveway on July 4th. Are the streaks caused by water, such as the seeps catalogued by Efrain Palermo and Jill England? Palermo has volunteered that the apparent "explosion" looks somewhat like the aftermath of the 1908 Tunguska explosion in Siberia, an airburst thought to have been caused by a disintegrating comet fragment.

The markings in the Mars image look as though something detonated, but it's unclear whether the detonation occurred above- or below-ground. I don't see how this could have been caused by a conventional meteorite since there's no evidence of an impact crater or ejecta. And the peculiar "scorch" marks, (if that's what they are) are absent from known examples of impact events.

[Update (9-3-01): Much controversy has arisen over the accuracy of the image above and what it shows. In other enhancements, a small black circle, evidently a crater, is visible. Keith Laney has stressed that his enhancement (featured) was meant to draw attention to fine-scale detail. I see no real discrepancy between those claiming that the presence of an apparant crater "proves" this is a meteor impact and those who seek more controversial interpretations. Whatever this feature is, the radial markings are unique and suggest a connection with Palermo's "seeps."]


More Examples of Unusual "Fretted" Terrain

Keith Laney has presented several new examples of cellular, grid-like landscapes on Mars. In the detail above, intricate rectilinear "levels" are revealed. Is this a natural effect or evidence of an artificial "honeycomb"? For additional information on geometric Martian terrain, see "Large Geometric Grid Found on Mars" on the previous page.


Crop Formations Provoke Mars Speculation

Elaborate crop glyph based on 1974 SETI broadcast.

In 1974, SETI scientists in Arecibo, Puerto Rico transmitted a digital image into deep space in hopes of it eventually being intercepted and decyphered by extraterrestrials. In a surreal turn of events, we've received a most unusual "response" in the form of the same message returned to us -- not in the form of modulated radio waves, but as an intricate English crop formation virtually next door to a radio observatory.

The Arecibo crop glyph seen in context with the Chilbolton Radio Observatory in England.

(A brief editorial note: I am convinced that some crop circles are legitimate scientific mysteries. The new SETI glyph, conveniently positioned next to a radio telescope, might very well prove to be the work of pranksters with a subversive sense of humor. On the other hand, if this is an actual communication with some other intelligence, then I relish the irony of the medium "they" chose to use.)

Signal or noise? The original 1974 SETI transmission is shown on the right while the alleged "alien" response is on the left. Note deviations. Reconstructed graphic by Chris Joseph.

The SETI-inspired crop glyph boasts some tantalizing changes from the original version. Where a schematic human figure is encoded on the original transmission, unknown artists have inserted a small-bodied, big-headed figure that looks very much like an approximation of the "grays" of close-encounter lore. And where terrestrial scientists had placed a crude portrayal of our solar system, the "aliens" have done the same: the crop glyph features nine planets, one star, and three inhabited worlds (one of which is ringed by four enigmatic "pixels" that may represent moons or some unguessed phenomenon).

Most provocatively, the bottom of the original SETI message features a rough diagram of the radio dish in Arecibo, Puerto Rico that transmitted the message to the stars. The new version excludes any recognizable dish, but shows a simplified version of an intricate crop glyph that appeared almost exactly one year ago in the same location.

Last year's glyph is referenced in 2001's Arecibo-inspired formation. Top: The original 2000 crop formation. Bottom: The 2000 formation simplified for inclusion in the 2001 Arecibo glyph.

Does the simplified glyph represent a technology analogous to the radio telescope in Arecibo? If so, then the prospective aliens seem to have come a long way since radio dishes; the glyph included in the "Arecibo" glyph hints at complex geometry and may not be a "diagram" so much as a mathematical code or fragment of "sacred geometry."

Mysterious crop face recalls the shadowy-eyed Face on Mars seen by Viking.

Of the various images of the Martian Face, frame 35A72 most resembles the Chilbolton glyph.

But that's not all. Crop-watchers are also treated to an impressive "dot matrix" potrait of a shadowy human face that recalls, at least to Richard Hoagland, the simian western side of the Face on Mars. I personally see nothing in the Chilbolton visage that provides a link with Cydonia; the "woven" face looks like that of a contemporary human to me, and it would come as no particular surprise if it turned out to be a self-portrait of the person who undertook the Chilbolton project (assuming that it's a hoax).

Whether it was made by nonhuman intelligence or not, the workmanship evidenced by the "Crop Face" is remarkable, and it stands as the first such piece of art to grace England's fields since the crop circle phenomenon came to worldwide attention in the early 1990s. We owe it to ourselves to investigate, even if there's only a remote chance this is a real extraterrestrial communication.

I don't know what, if anything, the "Arecibo" glyph has to do with the interesting "face" glyph. One possibility is that we're being offered evidence that the human race was genetically engineered by "gray" aliens who visited Mars in the remote past. A more likely scenario, in my opinion, is that we are being treated to an ambitious and -- given the subtleties of the SETI "reply" -- scientifically literate hoax.

The "Crop Face" and "Arecibo" glyphs may be entirely unrelated, and perhaps only our need to unify all that is strange has forced us to address them as different aspects of the same bizarre "transmission." This is unlikely, as the two glyphs occupy the same field. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder if the glyphs in question were hoaxed by staffers at the observatory itself, purely for the intellectual fun of it.

If, however, any of this is "real," then it's of obviously explosive importance. Perhaps laboratory testing of the affected crops will reveal magnetic or chemical anomalies indicating a nonhuman agent.


Detail from Chilbolton "SETI" Glyph Analyzed

In the SETI crop glyph discussed in the previous article, the portion of the code illustrating the "aliens'" presumed home solar system is shown (see graphic below).

Corresponding with the schematic of our own solar system transmitted in 1974, the graphic reveals a star at the far right, with planets extending to the image's left. Like our solar system, there are nine planets and one star, prompting Richard Hoagland, in private correspondence, to volunteer that this might be a representation of our own solar neighborhood. The difference, obviously, is that the planets corresponding with Earth, Mars, and Jupiter are elevated, denoting habitation. (In the original transmission, the third planet from the sun -- Earth -- is elevated, depicting the signal's planet of origin.)

One of the first oddities that caught my eye was the peculiar way the object equivalent to "Jupiter" was depicted by four connected pixels. Could this represent a work of megasacle engineering, or some other unknown phenomenon? Chris Joseph, who painstakingly rendered the SETI glyph into digital format, offered the possibility that the four pixels were meant to represent inhabited moons -- an attractive hypothesis that seemed to make sense framed in Hoagland's model.

The four pixels could represent the four primary Jovian satellites: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Maybe the "alien" message (assuming, as always, that it might be authentic) isn't that "alien" after all, but merely a forecast of our own future as we colonize space. But why, then, would the "Jupiter pixel" remain "blank"? All of the other schematic planets appear as "filled in" bits of data. If the communicator wanted to tell us that the Jupiter system was inhabited, this could be more accurately conveyed by filling in the "hollow" center left by the four ambiguous pixels.

A careful look at the left portion of the solar system schematic reveals another telling detail: the "Neptune" equivalent is missing a pixel compared to the original Arecibo transmission, indicating that it is smaller than the gas giant known to terrestrial astronomers. Unless this is a mistake on behalf of the communicator (human or alien), this seems to exclude our solar system as the star system represented in the glyph.

Above is a close-up of the being representing the apparent alien race. As discussed in my previous article, I think this is an approximation of a "gray" alien of the sort popularized by books and other media based on the alien abduction phenomenon. Below it is a typical example of a "gray," universally described as a being with a large head, large eyes and frail, spindly body (all traits clearly discernable in the SETI crop glyph).

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