One of the most controversial topographical features in our solar system is a mountain peak on the plain Cydonia Mensae, on Mars.
First photographed by a Viking Orbiter in 1976, the mountain bears an uncanny resemblance to a human face looking outward into space. NASA observers were apparently unimpressed, and filed the picture away with hundreds of others from the same mission.
A few years later, two engineers at the Goddard Spaceflight center--Greg Molenaar and Vincent di Pietro--came upon the Viking images of the Face, and the strange mountain became much more widely known. Two shots from the Viking Orbiter, identified as frames 35A72 and 70A13, show the Face partly in shadow, which has the effect of strengthening the seemingly human features.
On many reproductions, black dots appear on the pictures; these are artifacts of the satellite transmission, and do not represent true features on the Martian surface. At least one black dot is positioned to give a clear impression of a "nostril" on the Face. The Face is roughly 2,500 meters long (about 1.5 miles), 2,000 meters wide (1.2 miles) and 400 meters at its highest point (about one fifth of a mile, or 1,160 feet).
The face, alone, though is not the only anomaly Mars-watchers have discovered. Other features in Cydonia Mensae add to the mystery.
Tall spires on the plain often referred to as pyramids create the feeling we are looking on the Martian equivalent of Gizeh. While NASA insists the Face is simply a natural formation we perceive as human-shaped (much as people may see complex shapes in the random formations of clouds), a considerable body of literature exists that argues the Face and attendant "monuments" of Cydonia are the work of a non-terrestrial race. The man most identified with this theory is author and lecturer Richard Hoagland, who has made an entire career for himself out of popularizing the Face on Mars.
Is the Face a monument made by alien hands? It's possible, but unlikely; without closer examination there's no way to be certain.
Scientists at NASA have circulated other photos of Martian features that resemble well-known Earthly images, including a Smiley Face five miles wide and a lava flow that looks like Kermit the Frog. While we humans have an infinite ability to see deliberate images where none exist (why else do so many people every year see Jesus or the Virgin Mary in tortillas, wall stains, or clouds?), studies of the Face produce curiously consistent results.
Nonetheless, simulated shading from other positions of the sun continue to produce Face-like images, which seems to rule out the argument that the original Viking pictures were accidents of light and shadow.
For more (much more!) information on the Face and other Martian anomalies, visit the Cydonia Zone Web Page at: http://www.cydonia.org/zone.html. Tell 'em PSCPPol sent you.
[Keep watching--in the near future, ParaScope will continue to explore the mysterious Martian "face" and monuments.]
(c) Copyright 1996 ParaScope, Inc.