Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A New Look at an Old Face

Valles Marineris - The Grand Canyon of Mars

Face on Mars - 1976 Viking Orbiter 1 Photo

New Look at an Old Face

The famous "Face on Mars" has gotten another close-up.

The European Space Agency has released new, highly detailed images of the controversial, face-like formation first captured by a Viking orbiter at Mars’ Cydonia region in 1976.

The Face may be a popular target for orbiters – NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor snapped images in 1998 and 2001 – but it’s not an easy one.

The site, located at 41 degrees north Martian latitude, is often obscured by atmospheric dust and haze. Still, after several attempts, the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board ESA’s Mars Express captured a series of images with a ground resolution of approximately 13.7 meters per pixel.

"These images of the Cydonia region on Mars are truly spectacular," said Agustin Chicarro, ESA Mars Express Project Scientist. "They not only provide a completely fresh and detailed view of an area famous to fans of space myths worldwide, but also provide an impressive close-up over an area of great interest for planetary geologists."

Chicarro and his team say the high-resolution images further confirm what NASA scientists have been saying for years: It’s not a face, but a raised, eroded surface.

NASA’s chief scientist for Mars exploration, Jim Garvin, describes the formation as the equivalent of a butte or mesa, landforms common around the American West. Such formations are common in Mars’ Cydonia region, which is located between the planet’s southern highlands and northern plains.

But then, some may never be convinced.

Since the spooky, face-like structure was first photographed by NASA’s Viking 1 Orbiter 30 years ago, the site has been the subject of breathless speculation.

In movies, books and on the Web, some have argued this is a massive sculpture built by intelligent life and that surrounding conical-like structures are pyramids, or remnants of a great city, built by a complex civilization.

Check out the article at Discovery News.

Natural shapes can take on many forms when viewed with the human eye... ever looked for shapes in clouds?

For more information on Mars, visit The Nine Planets or NASA Solar System Exploration.

Check out my previous space posts: Space 9, Space 8, Space 7, Space 6, Space 5, Space 4, Space 3, Space 2 and Space 1

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