‘Alien figure on Mars’: why people say an anonymous chunk of rock is proof of life on the red planet

A chunk of rock has sparked hope that it’s actually a quiet person hanging out on Mars, but it almost certainly isn’t.

But it is not a scientific advance or an important finding; instead, it’s just a trick of the eye that has been used multiple times to get people excited about the possibility of life on the red planet.

The alleged sighting began on a blog, UFO Sightings Daily, written by Scott C Waring. In a large image originally sent back by the Mars rover last year, she claimed to have seen a person lying down, and some people suggested it was similar to the pose Kate Winslet takes in Titanic when she is drawn.

“Everyone here knows that I love reviewing NASA photos,” Scott C Waring wrote in a blog post. “Well, I found something unique… something that is 100% proof of intelligent life. There is a person lying down watching NASA’s Mars rover from a safe distance.

“The person is about 1 foot tall, 0.3 meters and is lying down, upper chest, neck and face rosy, hair radiant, wears a dark suit, but has a gray object on one shoulder. .. looks like a backpack from some classify. There are even footprints behind the person that lead to the place they chose to lie down.”

(Nasa/Scott C. Waring)

But while it’s almost impossible to say with certainty that the Mars rover does not have saw an alien, the image is far from 100 percent proof of alien life. In fact, it’s almost certainly just a trick of the eye.

That phenomenon is known as “pareidolia,” which describes the way humans tend to see something meaningful in things that are, in fact, arbitrarily arranged. People are given to seeing faces or other objects, even in the simplest and most unrelated things, whether on Earth or elsewhere.

Another related idea is that of mimetolites. That relates specifically to rock formations that look like something else, something that sounds simple but has recently become a popular hobby for some people.

Pareidolia and mimetholith are particularly prevalent on other planets, one of the most famous examples being the “Man in the Moon”. Presumably, that’s because the alien worlds explored by the rovers offer a wide variety of different objects, images from a variety of different angles, each an opportunity to spot something that might look like a human-made object.

For an example of how many opportunities there are to spot something seemingly exciting, it’s worth checking out the original panorama in which the image was taken. That photo, which can be viewed online at GigaPan and was created by Neville Thompson, is huge, with a wide variety of rocks, each an opportunity to spot something that could be interpreted as exciting.

This phenomenon has led to a kind of cottage industry of people who want to find aliens or other intriguing objects within otherwise uninteresting images of other planets. Those claims, whether genuinely made or not, are often promoted on different news sites, often under headlines that seem to lend credence to the suggestion that they might be something more than an optical illusion.

Perhaps the most intriguing find came in December, when China’s lunar rover appeared to detect a “mystery shack” on the moon. The small rectangle on top of the hill attracted world attention when it was spotted on the far side of the Moon.

It took days for the rover to get close to the object and figure out what it was, and even longer to send those messages, due to difficulties communicating with Earth from the far side of the Moon. But when the images came back, they were disappointing to anyone who thought the cabin could be a house.

In fact, it was a relatively uninteresting chunk of rock that scientists dubbed a “jade rabbit,” since up close it looked more like the animal than a house, although it arguably looked like nothing.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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