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Facing Up to the Face On Mars

How to end the controversy!
  (+7, -11)
(+7, -11)
  [vote for,

OK folks, I assume you all have heard about the so-called Face On Mars. It was first observed in images taken by the Viking orbiter spacecraft back in 1976. NASA claimed it was basically an optical illusion, but quite a few folks decided to disagree. Some went so far as to claim there was an entire complex of artificial structures in the region of the Face.

So who is right? NASA claims that its latest space probes have taken high-resolution images that reveal that, sure enough, the Face and other things were just illusive hills of various shapes, and offer the images to prove it. DO keep in mind that Mars has indeed provided optical illusions before, most famously with respect to "canals". However, there are those who claim that the images have been doctored, and the means by which it could have been done is pretty simple. Remember a space probe just a few years ago called the Mars Observer? It had high-resolution cameras on it, and was about to go into orbit but "lost contact". That was the CLAIM. What if the Government lied? Then they had their own private spacecraft taking all sorts of pictures, and sent back on some secret frequency that nobody trusting NASA expected. They had two years to study and edit ("doctor") the images, before the next space probes arrived at Mars. All they had to do was send the doctored images to those new probes, and then sent right back as NASA's "proof". (And more obviously a possibility, it is claimed that there was a six-week delay between NASA taking the latest images, and actually releasing them to the public.)

Now I personally am not taking a stand with respect to either opinion regarding the images. This Idea is about how to test NASA's claims about the images, so that we might more rationally decide if the Face is illusive or doctored.

According to NASA, we have detailed photographic and altimeter data regarding the hill/Face. I suggest that somebody build a scale model from that data. Next, go back to the original Viking data, and extract the angle of Solar Illumination of that hill/Face, and duplicate it. Finally, stand back a ways, at an angle equivalent to the angles at which the Vikings TOOK those pictures, and take some more pictures! Will the scale model look like The Face, or not? If it DOES, then NASA is being honest, and the thing really is an eroded hill. But if the original Face cannot be seen, with scale model, original illumination angles, and original camera angles, then we know that the "latest" data has been doctored.

Any takers? Any bets on the outcome? Enjoy!

Vernon, Jun 27 2002

pfp's link to a smiley face ? http://www.bahnhof.se/~frop/space.html
[po, Jun 27 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

MORE PICTURES, INCLUDING 3-D http://mars.jpl.nas..._01/face/index.html
Camera and sunlight angles appear similar to Viking image. [Vernon, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Some more recent pictures. http://www.esa.int/.../SEM09F8LURE_0.html
The European Space Agency, possibly NOT in cahoots with NASA, has their own space probe taking pictures of Mars. [Vernon, Nov 09 2006]

Here you go, folks! http://www.esa.int/...CO7BTE_index_0.html
The European Space Agency took enough pictures from different angles to be able to create a rotating 3D animation. [Vernon, Jun 09 2009]


       So you build a scale model of the Face, based on the original photograph, photograph it, and check whether it looks like the original photograph? I think it will.
angel, Jun 27 2002

       No, angel, you build the model based on the LATEST photographs and altimetry data. Then you photograph it based on the original photos, to see if it looks like the original Face. Because those latest pictures sure don't, not much that is.
Vernon, Jun 27 2002

       So you want to error-check NASA's data? Go on then.   

       If you think that mere facts will get in the way of a good conspiracy theory then you're going to be disappointed, though.
st3f, Jun 27 2002

       Who knows? What if the data itself is doctored? What if the instruments are rigged? Unless you go out to Mars with a few hundred thousands of meters or yards of measuring tape and even more minutes of free time, you can't be *totally* sure the facts are right. And even if you made sure they were right no one would believe you.   

       As for practicalities, are YOU going to come up with the money for this investigation? And what grandiose purpose does it serve for society, except to give us new shows to watch at midnight on the Discovery Channel?   

       I'm putting twenty on the alien building theory. Just because it's more fun.
polartomato, Jun 27 2002

       I think this could be done by computer, without needing actual models. There has been some work on reconstructing contoured surfaces from photographs; if the surface is homogenous then it's relatively simple to go from the shading to calculate the angle of the surface to the light source, and then calculate the contours of a surface that best fits the data. Once you had a 3-d representation you could play around with lighting models to your heart's content.
pottedstu, Jun 27 2002

       Pottedstu: You are correct. the software do do this 3D extrapolation and rendering is available but requires a bit more in the way of MIPS than the average PC can deliver. It would be quite expensive to do this work.   

       Besides, I'm with st3f. Conspiracy theories are fun. They help us believe that our leaders are capable of running a competent, well organised cover-up, instead of just struggling by from day to day like ordinary people do. Let's not spoil the illusion.
8th of 7, Jun 27 2002

       For cryin' out loud.   

       Vernon, come on now, lad. I always suspected you had a little bit on the ball, based on the length and detail of your other ideas (most of which are beyond me). But you can't really be serious here, are you? I've never understood why it is people buy into crap like this Cydonia business.
waugsqueke, Jun 27 2002

       What if the original pictures were doctored to look like a face just to get a rise out of conspiracy theorists?
DrBob, Jun 27 2002

       they could have made it a smiley face and not a truly creepy one.
po, Jun 27 2002

       Keep on cooking, keep on looking, gotta stay on this case
Study the pix, watch the fix, we've got to find the face.
angel, Jun 27 2002

       There're probably martians right now that are debating whether the great pyramids depict the convexities of a martianette.
FarmerJohn, Jun 27 2002

       po, NASA has already released a 'smiley face on Mars" http://www.bahnhof.se/~frop/space.html
pfperry, Jun 27 2002

       A perfect example of no 'there' there.
phoenix, Jun 27 2002

       Do you folks mean to tell me that you like conspiracy THEORIES more than you want to know whether or not the alleged conspiracy is factual???? The whole point of this idea is to test the theory! The fishbones imply that you don't want the theory tested! Why???
Vernon, Jun 27 2002

       you say that like its a *bad* thing
po, Jun 27 2002

       How do you know the probes sent to Mars weren't faked to begin with? Have we actually been to mars? HA! Maybe the aliens doctored the photos and NASA is innocent.   

       Maybe it's a cover up to something even bigger.. geeesh. You can make 'em up all day.
dag, Jun 27 2002

       personally, I think Vernon has a point and he's got my croissant. now I just want to hear his take on crop circles....
runforrestrun, Jun 27 2002

       Vernon, this seems a little lame. The probes sent to mars by NASA have been designed to look for signs of life, what would be the point of a coverup?

       There isn't a face on mars and the tops of the Egyptian pyramids do not come off and form spaceships.

       I met a bunch of people once that had an obviously doctored picture of the 'face on mars'. They claimed that it was a religious artefact! After that I didn't hang around to ask more questions.
madradish, Jun 28 2002

       Well, I think that the OVERALL conspiracy theory concerns the Government not wanting anyone but itself to have any advanced alien technology (if such exists on Earth, of course). Thus the snatch-and-hide of any saucer debris, etcetera. One could make a case for government paranoia -- What of national security if some evil dude like Saddam (or more ordinary belligerents like China) got such technology and the US didn't??? Anyway, with respect to Mars, if it could be proven that alien technology exists there, how soon will there be a Space Race to claim it? But cover up the evidence, and the US government can be the only one in the "race". Certainly it can be well ahead of the rest of the pack, should the cover-up leak.   

       Anyway, while it might be nice if a stash of alien technology was waiting to be claimed on Mars, I'm more interested in settling the question about whether or not NASA's handout (latest Face data) is genuine. Then we'll know whether or not a cover-up has been happening, and we'll know whether or not a conspiracy is ongoing.   

       For those who mentioned the notion that the original Viking pictures of the Face were doctored, why would NASA want to make trouble for itself? If I recall right, those images were being made public as fast as they arrived, so the Face caught everyone by surprise, including NASA. It was the off-hand dismissal of the images as illusion that started the suspicions about a hidden agenda...and here we are, today, still wondering. But I think we don't have to keep wondering, if the test suggested here is performed.   

       runforestrun, many crop circles have been identified as hoaxes (confessions of hoaxers). I don't worry too much about the uncertain ones.   

       madradish, NASA wants to find primitive life, not advanced and possibly unfriendly aliens. Governments being the stupid power-hungry things they are, they claim that they know what is best for the citizens (including what the citizens should be allowed to know). In spite of many Hollywood efforts, nobody really knows how masses of humanity will react should the existence of alien intelligences be widely known. Some religions will probaly denounce them as soulless demons, for example. Other hordes of people may panic and head for the hills, to avoid being caught in assumed-doomed cities. And so on. Obviously no government needs that kind of uncertainty in the general public. To keep its own power means keeping aliens a secret! Whether they really exist or not!
Vernon, Jun 28 2002

       Vernon, you are right, I don't want the theory tested. You speak of settling the question. In my opinion, there is no question to settle. You say this is how to end the controversy. To me, there is no controversy.   

       I think the whole Cydonia face business is a bunch of conspiracy-junkie hogwash and it has already been disproven, not that it needed to be in the first place.
waugsqueke, Jun 28 2002

       waugsqueke, the mere say-so that something-or-other is true (or false) has usually proved in the long run to be inadequate to convince people. This is where testing has value. If you want a particular group of conspiracy-theorists to shut up forever, then the only way to do it is to prove that they have no case, with evidence they can accept. For the Face-on-Mars crowd, I think that the test suggested here will do that job. If a scale model of NASA's "eroded hill" can be shown, under appropriate lighting and viewing angle/distance, to look just like the original Viking pictures, then the image was indeed an illusion all along, and you can have a terrific belly laugh, saying "I told you so!"   

       On the other hand, your unwillingness to have the test done could imply (to the conspiracy theorists), that you know NASA's latest data was doctored, and will fail the test, making you part of the conspiracy!
Vernon, Jun 28 2002

       pfp, the one from your link labeled mars incan ruins, it looks more like a skeletal foot to me, where is it they get the incan ruins from? You know?
barnzenen, Jun 28 2002

       Maybe you should do that in reverse, make a face and see under the same condition of light and shadow in the photograph does it still look the same. One thing for sure, human face doesn't cast shadow that way.
bing, Jun 29 2002

       i thought that the point was that it wasnt a human face...
chud, Jun 29 2002

       Vernon, I have to agree with waugsqueke on this one. I don't think that any 'proof' you come up with will shut the conspiracy theorists up forever. Most of them don't accept evidence, that's why they're into conspiracies.

There are people who still believe that the moon landings were fake despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary. These people invent ficticious conspiracies to fuel their paranoia. Trying to unconvince them of something they have taken to heart is absolutely futile - you'll only give yourself a headache trying.
madradish, Jul 03 2002

       madradish, I can agree that the most fanatical conspiracy theorists won't be convinced until they see the Face on Mars from close range with their own eyeballs. But I'd like to think they are a minority of the overall group who think that because the US Government has proved untrustworthy in the past, the mere claims of its NASA arm cannot be taken without a grain of salt. Those are the people who would appreciate this test   

       As for the people who think humans have never reached the moon, I ask you to consider the laser reflectors that the astronauts placed there (but which no unmanned probe carried). Anyone with a decently bright laser and a decent telescope can obtain reflections from the various manned-landing sites, and the disbelievers should consider visiting those who have that equipment.
Vernon, Jul 03 2002

       With respect, [Vernon], anyone who holds the belief that the moon landings were faked is unlikely to be persuaded by such a test. The reflectors *could*, after all, have been placed by unmanned missions.
"A man convinced against his will
Is of his own opinion still."
angel, Jul 03 2002

       Vikings + Cameras = NORSA
thumbwax, Jul 03 2002

       Vernon, I have to agree with waugsqueke on this one. I don't think that any 'proof' you come up with will shut the conspiracy theorists up forever. Most of them don't accept evidence, that's why they're into conspiracies.

There are people who still believe that the moon landings were fake despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary. These people invent ficticious conspiracies to fuel their paranoia. Trying to unconvince them of something they have taken to heart is absolutely futile - you'll only give yourself a headache trying.
madradish, Jul 03 2002

       Point 1 ( NASA's skill at coverups ) : NASA couldn't coverup their own design ineptitude in the Space Shuttle SRBM's o-ring seals. And they couldn't coverup their inept decision to launch on an extremely cold day that would effect the seals. But they had the skill to coverup evidence of an advance civilization on Mars for 30+ years??   

       Point 2 : Telemetry data is received not just by us, but by any other country that wants it. Many of these other countries assists us by receiving telemetry and sending it to us. No one really could believe they don't keep the data also. So they are also covering this up? Every friendly and hostile country that received the same data are all covering this up?
skeptic, May 02 2003

       I have to say I think the face on mars is just another all so common martian mesa. The face on mars is around 450 metres high. It is also not much wider than it is high. Make a 3d model and view it from side on and its no longer a face but a big peak. Unless of course martians have long pointy faces, it is not a artificial structure.
venomx, May 20 2003

       Just added a link to some more pictures of the "face". There's something about the regularity of the left edge....and the overall oval....
Vernon, Aug 22 2003

       Vernon, you too should read Sagan's "Demon-Haunted World". There's a whole chapter on this subject that should satisfy even you.
waugsqueke, Aug 22 2003

       waugsqueke, I was just enjoying the possibilities, one of which is that the Face is an eroded hill...which was originally constructed to be a Face, heh heh.
Vernon, Aug 22 2003

       I remember seeing photos of things that looked quite a bit like above ground subway tubes on mars. What of those? I was not so impressed with the face (phase?), but the tubes seemed quite impressive.
I must admit the images most likely were posted on a "conspiracy" site which I ran into checking out the face.
Zimmy, Aug 23 2003

       Model-schmodel---Halloween's comin' and I want my Official NASA No Face on Mars (tm) rubber mask.
cloudface, Sep 01 2003

       Skeptic: You might suppose that NASA made the fateful Challenger decisions on purpose, to seem incapable of coverups.   

       If we sent all the conspiracy crackpots to Mars to see that the face is just a mountain, they would suppose that NASA was there first and demolished it Taliban-style.   

       The point is that for whatever argument or evidence you present against a conspiracy theory, the crackpots can always just incorporate the evidence, making the conspiracy even more powerful and dangerous.
MaxMad, Nov 13 2003

       Just a dumb conspiracy theory.
MikeOxbig, Jan 30 2006

       i can just imagine these aliens looking down at Earth..   

       "I'm comvinced there is life down there, Kang, That bit of land there looks just like a giant leg kicking a football...."
Minimal, Jan 30 2006

       //If we sent all the conspiracy crackpots to Mars to see that the face is just a mountain, they would suppose that NASA was there first and demolished it Taliban-style.//   

       Well whad did YOU think all those crashed mars probes were for?   

       Seriously, the face on Mars is an eroded hill that started off as a hill, and eroded away until it looked a little bit like a face.   

       However, the current piage NASA used has indeed been stretched, and flattened until it looks nothing like the real hill. Why? probably because they thought that would shut the conspiracy theorists up.
ye_river_xiv, Nov 08 2006

       What's even more creepy than that face on mars is the alignment of surface features nearby that matches the Pleiades constellation.
Zimmy, Jun 09 2009

       Personally i think that the whole face-on-Mars thing is just a conspiracy to make people think that Mars exists.
DrBob, Jun 10 2009

       Those European Space Agency pics don't fool anyone. That face on Mars is as real as the Sphynx. They just don't want to create a global panic.
xenzag, Jun 10 2009


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