The 'face' on Mars, a popular landform in Cydonia Region on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Extreme Close-Up of the Face on Mars

28 Jul , 2010 by

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Here’s a picture you probably won’t see in the tabloid racks while waiting in line at the grocery store. This is the famous “Face on Mars,” and is the closest image ever of this landform, taken by the best Mars camera ever, HiRISE on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. And it certainly looks like …. the top of mesa, which is exactly what it is. This feature in the Cydonia region of Mars is most likely a lava dome that has created an isolated mesa or butte-like structure, i.e., a hill. Compare this image to the original image from the Viking orbiter from 1976 image, below, which created such a furor, including a whole new culture of conspiracy theories, books, late-night radio talk show discussion and even a full-length feature film. Alas, its just a hill.


Original 1976 'Face on Mar' image from the Viking Orbiter. Credit: NASA

Viking had much lower spatial resolution than HiRISE, and a different lighting geometry, which made it look like a face. Yes, it does look like a face in this image. But things aren’t always as they appear, especially in low resolution and bad light. These newer and better images, starting with the Mars Orbiter Camera on the Mars Global Surveyor (which took images of the Cydonia region in 1998 and 2001) and now HiRISE — which shows incredible detail from 300 kilometers above the surface — have certainly set the record straight. Unfortunately, some people still cling to the notion of a face on Mars.

Side by side: a Viking 1 photo from 1976, a Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) image from 1998, and an MGS image from 2001. Credit: NASA

Here’s another look at the ‘face,’ a 3D perspective view of the Face on Mars landform, created from an image from MOC, which shows a side view of the feature,

3D persepective view. Credit: NASA/Jim Garvin (NASA) and Jim Frawley (Herring Bay Geophysics).

Here’s the HiRISE image in black and white:

HiRISE image from 2007 of the 'face' on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

And here’s one of my favorites. Jim Garvin, currently the chief scientist of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center created a potential hiking map of the “face,” with a great description: “Hike length is approximately 5.5 km or 3.6 miles one way, with a total elevation gain of nearly a thousand feet. Rating…. easy at start and midsection, with some very steep sections. Take plenty of water and oxygen.”

Potential hiking map of the mesa, previously known as the Face on Mars. Credit: NASA/Jim Garvin

And still, if you need more convincing, here’s an animation created from actual images of the ‘face’ by ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft which provides a full trip around the hill.

For more, including high-res versions of the color image on top and a “Hi-Flyer” of the image, check out this page on the HiRISE website.

Sources: HiRISE, [email protected], ESA

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Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
tacitus
Member
July 28, 2010 7:35 PM

You know what they always say…

Nobody looks good in extreme close-up.

tacitus
Member
July 28, 2010 7:38 PM

Hoagland’s moved on anyway, pushing his “Phobos is a spaceship” nonsense now.

But now that we’re only a few months away from Vesta (Dawn), I’m willing to bet that, on arrival, someone will suddenly discover remarkable evidence that Vesta is also a spacecraft of some kind — perhaps even the Golgafrincham B Ark. (and I can’t believe that I spelled that right first time!)

Aqua4U
Member
July 28, 2010 5:05 PM

An interesting feature anyway, even if its NOT what the tabloids propped it up to be! Preying on the under informed IS somewhat a national sport here in Amerika? There are FAR too many examples to even begin listing here…

As you probably know(?), NASA just released the biggest, most detailed map ever of Mars from the Mars Odyssey mission a couple days ago.

http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/jul/HQ_10-176_Mars_Odyssey_Map.html

I think I’ll check out Cydonia Mensa from that perspective, just for grins…

Trippy
Member
Trippy
July 28, 2010 7:26 PM

Anyone else notice how the hike map takes you up one of the ‘faces’ ‘nostrils’?

qraal
Member
July 28, 2010 11:04 PM

Looks so artificial… just like Uluru or the Devil’s Marbles or 12 Apostles… you get the idea.

Emilio
Guest
Emilio
July 29, 2010 3:04 AM

The first image confused me a little. I just couldn’t see where the mesa feature started and ended. Typically if a mesa gets some type of frost, it forms at higher elevation. But the image shows frost on one half of mesa. Hummm, this image is made up man.

avar
Member
avar
July 29, 2010 4:05 AM

Since we now have a detailed 3d model of the mesa, hasn’t anyone tried rendering it in the same lighting conditions that existed when the Viking Orbiter imaged it in 1976?

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
July 29, 2010 5:04 AM

Strikingly beautiful feature.

And nice to hear the latest on Hoagland Tacitus. It always amuses me to hear the latest and greatest wackjob theories.

Jeffrey Boerst
Member
July 29, 2010 7:48 AM

Honestly, all Hoagland has to do is run the image through a plethora of Photoshop filters while self-medicating with whatever he uses and voila!… it will suddenly be apparent that the Mars face is an exactly sculpted Dobbshead, left aeons ago by the still-not-arriving-on-July-4ths, X-ists…

papayaman
Member
papayaman
July 29, 2010 11:00 AM

Seeing a face in an outcropping of rocks on Mars is like when people see an outline of a lady in tree sap, and they construe this as a picture of the Virgin Mary. Our minds are hard wired to recognize familiar patterns in random configurations of natural occurrences. That’s OK. The next step is proper attribution.

Tony Trenton
Member
Tony Trenton
July 29, 2010 12:25 PM

PAPAYAMAN is correct and in perspective

Our brains are designed to look for faces. This is a human characteristic.

Prime
Member
Prime
July 29, 2010 1:13 PM

Perhaps the natural face technology of humans was used, by the ancientMartians to lure us into the unknown, there.

Let’s see what the pyramids, nerby, look like, and if the camera can read hieroglyphics

Olaf
Member
Olaf
July 29, 2010 2:55 PM

It would be interesting to actually get the elevation data usefull for 3D modelling.

BigFuzzyOne
Member
BigFuzzyOne
July 29, 2010 6:01 PM

It’s obvious. The government tried to destroy the face wit a nuke after the Viking photo was released. All that will do is make the race of aliens that carved it angry and they will try to destroy us now. THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE AND IT WILL KILL US ALL. Just saying.

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
July 29, 2010 10:26 PM

Olaf
July 29th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

It would be interesting to actually get the elevation data usefull for 3D modelling.

I’m pretty sure that I have seen elevation data for the ‘face’ somewhere or other…

malefactor
Member
malefactor
July 30, 2010 4:42 AM

And…? If you ask me this article is a bit pointless. Everyone knows that it is just a rock. The point is that its fun to conjecture about a Martian made structure corroded with time!

Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 30, 2010 4:46 AM

“It would be interesting to actually get the elevation data usefull for 3D modelling.”

Something like this: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEMINCO7BTE_0.html ?

Olaf
Member
Olaf
July 30, 2010 6:17 AM

@Jon Hanford
Yes that data not the movie.
I have been googling for it but I do not find it. I would want to experiment with it in a 3D modelling program to see what light cause the face.

It is a combination of 2 things, the angle of sunlight and the low resolution of the images.

Iron15
Member
Iron15
July 30, 2010 6:35 AM

So, these are the pictures that NASA is trying to pass off, OK, remember, with these guys the lie is different at every level, the face the cydonia region is still their always has been always will be no matter how much they(military) NASA photo shop the evidence…As in the days of Noah!!!

nasajudy
Member
nasajudy
July 31, 2010 7:15 PM

I was awed when the original Viking pics were released but technology and snake oil salesmen made me change my mind some time ago. Wayne Herschel is still claiming the mesa is made of blocks.
Maybe him and Hoagland are having a good laugh somewhere.

Great new pics BTW.

wpDiscuz