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Martian "Buildings" Probably Aren't

As the Mars Odyssey spacecraft begins its harvest of infrared and chemical data, our understanding of Mars' enigmatic surface will certainly change and evolve. Already, the widespread signature of hydrogen reveals a world much wetter than previously believed by the mainstream space science community. It appears as if Mars is an unexpectedly hospitable world capable of harboring indigenous life.

But what will the Odyssey's suite of high-tech sensors reveal regarding the existence of artificial structures? And will we be able to identify extraterrestrial "ruins" if we happen across them? This debate has already manifested in the form of an image released during a NASA press conference, interpreted by some to represent an artificial complex. Discussed extensively by the Enterprise Mission, the formations in question appear tantalizingly geometric. But a careful look at the features' context and morphology calls the claim of artificiality into serious question.

"Chaotic" terrain seen in visible light and infrared (inset). Image courtesy Lan Fleming.


A second context image taken by the Mars Global Surveyor. Image courtesy The Electric Warrior.

It should be kept in mind that large-scale regular patterns can form via natural means. Seeming geometric regularity does not necessarily equate with artificiality. For example, the surface of Europa sports a multitude of squares; these are, of course, merely intersecting cracks in the ice. The farther one distances oneself from the apparent geometry the less regular it appears. This certainly seems to hold true with the new Odyssey image, as demonstrated when the image above is compared to the image posted on the Enterprise Mission website.

The "Inca City," a natural formation sometimes erroneously cited as evidence of artificality.

The Odyssey's infrared camera is able to "see" the Martian surface's temperature, revealing a high-resolution tapestry of false-color terrain. Using this data, scientists will be able to study subsurface features invisible to conventional photography. The wide-angle Gamma Ray Spectrometer (GRS) and THEMIS instruments will also assist researchers in identifying surface chemical variation. As previously discussed, it's possible that the Face and other objects in the Cydonia region may have anomalous chemical and thermal "signatures"; this would almost certainly reinforce the Artificiality Hypothesis, and data from the Face (already announced as a target of interest by NASA) is eagerly awaited by independent researchers.

By all means, we should be on the lookout for anomalous geometric features as the Mars Odyssey continues to scour the Red Planet with its arsenal of sensors. But the existence of a partly buried artificial complex, as "revealed" in the Odyssey's latest infrared image, is dubious at best. It must not be forgotten that Mars has been imaged before, by both the Mariner and Viking missions, and continues to be imaged in exquisite resolution by the Mars Global Surveyor. Researchers thus have a sizeable database from which to glean context photos, which may prove crucial in addressing "false alarms." Failure to examine a "new" anomaly in light of prior imagery lowers the scientific value of the admittedly "quick and dirty" effort displayed on the Enterprise Mission site.

3-16-02 (Updated 3-26-02)

New Face-like Formation Discovered

A newly discovered feature on Mars bears an uncanny similarity to the famous "Face" in Cydonia. While inspection of the "new" feature doesn't yield any recognizable facial features, the surrounding mesa could easily be mistaken for the Face's "platform mesa."

This remarkably geometric formation is comparable, in a gross sense, to the "Face on Mars" in Cydonia.

As researcher Nathan writes on his website, "It is almost a certainty that both these objects...were formed by the same processes. Whether [those are] artificial or natural is still unproven."

The logic on Nathan's site is appealing but far from definitive. It is expected that debunkers will seize on this "new" surface anomaly as proof that the Face is a naturally occurring formation. Some proponents of the Artificiality Hypothesis will likely insist that the new formation is indeed face-like, and that erosion has unfortunately rendered it "illegible."

The proposed "face" features a "headdress" similar to that observed in Cydonia.

But exactly why must this new feature be a face, if artificial? While Nathan suggests that this is the case, I see absolutely nothing on the new "face" to suggest an anthropomorphic likeness. So are we seeing a natural phenomenon, and thus stunning evidence that the Face in Cydonia must also be natural? I think not.

The Face on Mars. Image courtesy New Frontiers in Science.

Mark Carlotto's rectification of the Cydonia Face reveals a formation with considerable symmetry and facial proportion. The newly uncovered formation appears decidedly artificial, but its dimensions are notably squatter; while the Face mesa is rectangular, the new formation is better described as a square.

Nathan, continuing, writes:

"Let us now assume that these objects are artificial...why must they both portray a face...? (simple) If the Cydonia face is artificial and its symmetrical perimeter represents a head-dress, then the same MUST be said for the other (because both perimeters are basically identical)...and the only place a head-dress goes is (of course)...on a head/face."

But there may be a more practical alternative. The Cydonia Mensae region is widely suspected of once being underwater. Indeed, the beveled sides of the conspicuous Face platform mesa show signs of water erosion, in which case the perimeter "headdress" may have once served as a seawall similar to the one I perceive on the east-facing side of the formation known as the "Fort." If this scenario holds water (or, rather, rises above it), then perhaps a similar situation applies to the artificial-looking perimeter of the "platform" featured on Nathan's site.

The conceptual illustration below projects the Face back in time to when Mars was much warmer and wetter.

The Face casts its reflection on a hypothetical Cydonian sea, as viewed from the Fort. Face image courtesy Kynthia.

The remarkably architectural-looking wall forming the boundary of the new "face" may be a "seawall" used to insulate a Martian population from the elements. Similarly, the highly eroded knobs poking from the elevated square-ish surface may be the dust-buried remnants of ancient above-water buildings. (This basic conceptual design is essentially identical to my assessment of the Fort as an inwardly collapsed arcology.) The SW City formation appears to be a similar formation, whether artificial or natural. Its blunt "Egyptian"-scale pyramid lies precisely on the edge of a sloping "wall" almost identical to those seen bordering the Face and the aforementioned Platform.

This pyramidal formation rests atop a carved-looking platform in Cydonia. Another example of Martian seaside real-estate or the work of ancient water erosion?

In summary, there is no compelling reason to assume that the presence of a feature similar to that of the Face's "headdress" requires an identical aesthetic/architectural explanation. If Martian architects happened across an advantageous design, it is logical that they would apply this same design to a multitude of structures, regardless of their ultimate function.

The "bottom" edge of the Platform exhibits a "crumbling" effect that appears almost cellular at existing resolutions. Is this evidence of engineering or erosion?

The notions put forth above are testable. With the Mars Odyssey returning information on water distribution and data from the Mars Global Surveyor's Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) at hand, it should be possible to determine, if roughly, if and when the Face-like platform was surrounded by water, thereby confirming or refuting the "seawall" interpretation. The Efrain Palermo and Jill England, should also prove useful in determining the past distribution of water on Mars . . . and its implications for an extinct planet-wide civilization -- whether indigenous or from elsewhere.

The edge of a slab-like mesa discovered by Efrain Palermo. The edges were possibly carved by running water. Note rectilinear features on surface.


Comments on the "Platform" by Lan Fleming

SPSR member and NASA subcontractor Lan Fleming notes the following regarding the "Platform" discussed above. I am not particularly surprised that this formation is located in the lowlands, as this fits with my "seawall" hypothesis. I rather doubt the "Platform" was ever a "face" of any kind, while Fleming notes a depression that can be interpreted as an "eye socket."

MOLA topographic map showing locations of Face and Platform. Image courtesy Lan Fleming.

"I noticed that the 'platform' in M2001848 is covered with small craters, unlike the Cydonia Face, which is virtually free of cratering. I assumed this meant that the landform was in the cratered highlands, so I checked the MOLA topo map to see if it was. It's actually in the northern lowlands, although at a higher elevation than Cydonia, as the attached jpeg shows. It's kind of interesting that this platform is located on what might be seen as the shore of a large island or continent, making it somewhat similar to the Face in terms of location since the Face is located on what might be the shore of an ancient sea. I don't know why this area is so much more heavily cratered. It could mean that the region and the platform are much older than Cydonia. It also could mean that the Face was covered completely by water, at least part of the time, giving more protection from meteor bombardment."

New Animation Addresses "Platform"

The online journal New Frontiers in Science has posted an animated .GIF showing the "Platform" feature discussed above to be highly symmetrical and morphologically quite similar to the "Face." See "Rectangular Structure in Cerberus Region" at:

More Rectangular Features Near Cerberus Platform

The remarkably "Face-like" platform discussed in the previous article isn't alone. Kurt Jonach of the Electric Warrior offers the following image of the Cerberus region, which shows at least one highly geometric platform-like feature along with various ovoid mounds.

Right-angled surface features in the proximity of the Face-like Platform described above. Image courtesy The Electric Warrior.

These geometric features may be further evidence of a prior intelligent civilization on Mars; conversely, they could represent an unknown geological phenomenon, forcing us to readdress the Artificiality Hypothesis as it relates to the features in Cydonia.

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