Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterCydonia, Mars – What used to be only an albedo feature in early astronomers’ telescopes is now a region described as having mesa-like structures. An albedo feature is an area on a planet seen from a telescope as having a distinctive color compared to its surroundings. NASA scientists treat this region just like any other. E.T enthusiasts, however, once had a special interest in it.
For those who are not familiar with the term, a ‘mesa’ is an elevated piece of land characterized by a flat top and steep sides. Mesa is the Spanish word for ‘table’, which possesses a strong resemblance to the given description.
Now, Cydonia is not your average ‘surface on a celestial body’. It once gained celebrity status in the mid to late 70′s and even up to the 80′s because of certain images captured of it. The images were taken by Viking 1, one of two spacecrafts sent to Mars under America’s Viking Program.
On July 25,1976, one of Viking 1′s images revealed what appeared to be a human-like face. Because of the face in Cydonia, Mars captured the imagination of extraterrestrial intelligence enthusiasts. They interpreted it as proof of a probably extinct Martian civilization.
Aside from the face, pictures of the area also show pyramid-like structures. One of them, known as the ‘D & M Pyramid’ is even seen to bear a perfect symmetry. These structures are located west of the “Face on Mars”. Martian theorists believe that the face was constructed by a civilization which occupied the city where the pyramids stood.
Adding to the intrigue is the unmistakably smoother area near them. The theorists think the smooth area is a dried-up sea or ocean bed. This would make the area of the face and pyramids an ideal spot for a city.
Although scientists were not convinced that the face was anything more than a result of poor image resolution, public clamor forced NASA to give the area top priority in succeeding Mars expeditions. Since then, sharper photos have been taken of the popular mesa – one on April 5, 1998 and another on April 8, 2001. None of them look like a face anymore.
It was then that scientists concluded that the structure was more like a mesa. The high resolution photographs also showed the other surrounding structures to be mesas and buttes. Today, the region of Cydonia, Mars is no longer enjoying the public attention it once had.
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There’s more about it at NASA. Here are a couple of sources there:
Here are two episodes at Astronomy Cast that you might want to check out as well:
- Stellar Roche Limits, Seeing Black Holes, and Water on Mars
- The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence