Where In the Universe Challenge #31

Article written: 26 Nov , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

It’s Wednesday, so that means its time for another “Where In The Universe” challenge to test your visual knowledge of the cosmos. See if you can name where in the Universe this image is from, and give yourself extra points (or some extra Thanksgiving turkey if you live in the US) if you can name the spacecraft responsible for the image. Make your guess and post a comment if you’re brave enough. I’ll try to post the answer tomorrow, depending how busy I am with the holiday festivities, so check back sometime Thursday to find the answer and see how you did. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

UPDATE (11/27): The answer has now been posted below. If you haven’t made your guess yet, no peeking before you do!!

Well, the guesses posted by readers in the comments ranged from various places around the solar system, but the most frequent answer is the correct one: the Cydonia region on Mars, taken by ESA’s Mars Express. Cydonia is located in the Arabia Terra region on Mars, between the southern highlands and the northern plains of Mars. The area has several mounds of various shapes and sizes. Some over-enthusiastic folks looking at the first image of this region from NASA’s Viking 1 orbiter (1976) could see “pyramids” and a face. The “Face on Mars” can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the image above.

And here is another view of the “Face” from Mars Express. Looks more like an interesting hill, and not at all like a face.

Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum), MOC Malin Space Science Systems

Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum), MOC Malin Space Science Systems

Take a look at some more images of the region from Mars Express here.

Thanks for participating in this week’s WITU Challenge, and be sure to play again next week!

45 Responses

  1. Navneeth says

    Io? No…I want to say Ganymede. No, Io….


    I know it will turn out be Mars and MRO. πŸ™

  2. Jorge says

    This is Mars, and the photo was, I believe, taken by ESA’s Mars Express.

  3. Dan Tillmanns says

    Odd color. Is this a radar image of Venus?

  4. Kanna says

    Color is odd…
    Is it Titan taken by Huygens?

  5. Jessica Quinn says

    Titan – Cassini

  6. Steven says

    Cydonia Mensae,
    Planet’s northern hemisphere .

    You can see the so called face on Mars in the bottom right.

  7. Ryan T says

    I’m with Jorge… I think this was taken by Mars Express.

  8. Alan Sager (Physics Student.) says

    I think it’s jupiters moon, Io, because of the pattern of the volcanic surface. Io is a colourful moon, and the image reminds astronomers of a pizza.

    From Alan in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.

  9. Steven says

    It is colourful but thats just the kick ass cameras in Mars orbit these days.

  10. Steven says

    Jorge is correct on the spacecraft.

    This was a shut the conspiracy theory people up picture.

  11. The 327th Male says

    That’s gotta be a hirise pic

  12. D.R.R. says


  13. Navneeth says

    Nice once, Nancy.

    I like how the photo looks all mysterious and yet the clue stares at you in the FACE. πŸ˜‰

  14. Daniel says

    Hi im from venezuela, and thats Cydonia. mmm Not sure bout the spacecraft responsible.

  15. maydyfish says

    Yep, Mar Cydonia, Mars Express!

  16. daveC says

    Io – seen by Galileo

  17. Steve H says



  18. Matthias says

    Io? Spacecraft would be Galileo then.

  19. Member
  20. Vino says

    My first thought was it was Mercury…But looking at the posts above, looks like i am wrong…:(

  21. I would guess Mars. I know it’s not Ganymede, Enceladus, nor other moons because the topography looks to be too sharp. Those two moons don’t have topography much like that, and Io especially doesn’t because there’s no time between resurfacing events.

    Titan it could be but not with current craft – we don’t have the resolution nor imaging technology to get photos like that.

    It’s not Moon/Mercury because there aren’t craters over every bit of it.

    I agree that it’s Mars. Could be Cydonia but I don’t know enough about that geomorphology. But I can see Hoagland thinking those images show an intelligent civilization. πŸ˜‰

  22. Fabio Knopf says

    I think itΒ΄s a pretty good guess!


  23. liberum says

    I’m not 100% sure, but looks like Mars, with what appear to be sedimentary structures, some craters and channel-features. As for the spacecraft … perhaps Mars Global Surveyor?

  24. mandydax says

    I was thinking Io as well. It looks like there’s a lot of sulphur that’s been laid down like volcanic ash. So yeah, Io by Galileo is my guess, too.

  25. ringman says

    looks like the surface of Io,…

  26. Ferdinand says

    It looked very Mars-Express-like to me, so I went looking and found this:

    So it is Cydonia by Mars Express

  27. Vanamonde says

    I am probably wrong, but sure looks like a false color picture deep in the ocean somewhere on earth. Really deep.

  28. Rutledge says

    It looks like a picture looking down on a cauldron of boiling (purifying) gold. But the classic Mars-face at lower right is both exact and confusing. So – is it a gift-or perhaps gilt – wrapped Mars?

  29. Rutledge says


    Classic Skull-face plus classic Mars-face plus gold — buried treasure on Mars, right? So it must be water. πŸ™‚

  30. RL says

    My guess is Mercury and spacecraft is Messenger.

  31. JonathanR says

    Definitely Cydonia on Mars. Face is in the bottom right corner, but most of the picture is of the “Town Center” & other nearby pyramid-like structures.

    I believe the picture was taken by the EAS Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

  32. NickM says

    Dont know what others think about this… Wouldnt it be better to withhold comment publishing until the next day, so everyone’s guesses are blind before the answer is revealed. Makes it a bit more fun and challenging in my view.

  33. Steven says

    Great Idea NickM.

  34. Forgot to mention spacecraft. The color scheme does not look like HiRISE and I don’t think CTX generally does that type of color composite, either. It looks much more like ESA’s Mars Express, and Ferdinand’s link pretty much cinches it.

  35. redcloud says

    Easy: Mars by Mars Express, Cydonia most likely.
    Typical colors of images by the HRSC, and (though not exclusive to that area) typical morphology of “faces” and pyramids…

  36. Mario says

    I think this image is from Io moon, but I don’t know who is the spacecraft responsible for that picture… I’ll say Cassini perhaps???

  37. schmeinstein says

    lol couldnt be anything other than Mars or Earth at that resolution, i think ferdinands hit the nail on the head….

  38. Jesper says

    *not looking at the other anwers*

    I don’t know, but I guess: Mars, by the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter.

  39. Milos Krmelj says

    It is picture of Mars.Very likely region called
    Cydonia, there can be also seen pyramid like structure…
    And color is more likely to be from European Mars Express space probe, then NASA Mars
    Global Surveyor, but I am not certain on this.This is not MRO, as it is sending much more detailed images.
    Reader from small European country, Slovenia

  40. Graeme says


  41. neoguru says

    I’ll go with Mars, but would not bet the farm on it. The craters look meteoric, not volcanic but the region looks weathered. Must be Mars, huh? Donno what spacecraft.

  42. deebee says

    how can this photo be viewed in 3d – i would love to examine it doing a 3d fly-by – richard hoglan of enterprise mission has some good 3d pics of the “face” but i would like to see some images that are real time live and not a doctored photo – happy t-giving day everyone – much blessings to oyu

  43. GumbyTheCat says

    If you look at the bottom right corner, you’ll see the so-called “Face on Mars”.

  44. Jorge says

    how can this photo be viewed in 3d

    Because Mars Express is equipped with a stereo camera which allows scientists to build digital elevation models of everything it photographs (much the same way we obtain 3D information from our two eyes, looking at objects from slightly different perspectives). These elevation models can then be rendered in computers as 3D images or even movies.

  45. Dan Tillmanns says

    Why is the color so odd?

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