In a previous post, I talked about the hotly-debated "face on Mars." Of course I'm not so sure just how "hot" the debate is these days. More recent photographs and analysis of that area of Mars show the "face" to be nothing more than an optical illusion. Cydonian enthusiasts will likely disagree, but this is the current stance of mainstream science. Another strange finding on Mars that came and went was "the bunny."
In 2004, a photograph from the Opportunity rover on Mars seemed to show...for lack of a better word...a bunny. Note the two ear-like protrusions on the object in the above photograph. Time-lapse analysis showed that the "ears" actually moved in the light breeze of Mars. In subsequent photographs, the anomalous object was gone. Was it a lifeform? A "Mars bunny?" A fossil of former life, knocked loose from the rock and soil? Not so fast. Turns out it was a tiny piece of the lander that broke loose on impact. Since it would be fairly lightweight, it's not a far leap to surmise that the fragment was later blown away by the wind. (thanks to Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy for the clear, concise explanation.)
Given those let downs, I was fully prepared to write off all such "Martian anomalies" as products of mere pareidolia, much as Carl Sagan once suggested. Now, I'm prepared to be a bit more open-minded on the subject and give this aspect of "alternative science" another look.
The venerable Mac Tonnies wrote After the Martian Apocalypse, a book that examines the possibility of alien artifacts on the planet Mars. Among the things he points to on Mars that have the outside chance of being artificial structures:
-Unusual, grid-like patterns in the soil that resemble the streets of a large city. The lines are regularly spaced and appear to be the work of an intelligence.
-Mounds and other building-like structures in the Cydonia region of Mars.
-A "fort," located not altogether that far from the supposed "face."
And the list goes on, not just from the late Tonnies but from multitudes of other "Mars anomaly researchers." The problem being that most of the information I have thus far found on the topic, with the exception of Tonnies, seems to be of the sort that you'd find in the check-out counter at your local grocery store. On the level of The Weekly World News or the like.
That has not succeeded in stifling my interest. Mars is the most fascinating planet in our solar system in my opinion. Why? Maybe because it is so similar to Earth, at least in size and orbit. It was perhaps even more similar once long ago. We know that there is water on Mars in the form of a polar ice cap. Was it once far more prevalent than that? Only future geological analysis will tell, but a once ubiquity of water is seeming more and more likely. As a matter of fact, there are more than a few aerial photographs of Mars that have certain researchers claiming visible water still exists today. In any event, our experience has been that where there is water, there is life. Was there once a thriving civilization on Mars that suffered an ecological disaster? Perhaps a cataclysm of their own doing (as we threaten to do to ourselves) or an unfortunate natural occurrence such as water evacuating to the pole? It is to ponder.
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