Optical Illusions 2

Facing the Facts

Many of the Viking images were put straight into storage and not looked at when they were received - there were just too many to examine and only a few experts to do the work. In July 1976 Tobias Owen was looking through the pictures and found this one Number 35A72(above). It is the original raw image, complete with "noise" - the black specs.

A face. What did it mean? It was soon found to be a couple of kilometres in length and located in the region of Cydonia, in the northern lowlands.

It caused much excitement and press speculation at the time. Who made it? Didn't it look like an Egyptian? Was it a message to us? Had it been built by aliens? Had mankind already been to Mars sometime in the pre-history?

All this was fuelled even further, when detailed examination of other images of the locality revealed five-sided pyramids, rectangular piazzas and enormous buildings and fortifications laid out in logical or geometric patterns. Or so it was claimed by some people who examined the images.

Theories abounded, books were written, fortunes were made. Entire new civilisations were created, both alien and Earthly. These were described in great detail. In some cases even accounts of the history and science of the people were included. Of course, all this had been built on the back of a few not-very-detailed photographs, and some active imaginations. The hype and misinformed public acceptance of Lowell's Mars was repeated, but this time it was in the age of high-science, instant media and after a century-worth of mass education - a time when we should have known better. Apparently no lessons had been learnt from the Martian canals fiasco!

Most astronomers, planetary scientists and the world's space agencies dismissed these wild ideas completely, of course, saying at best the notions were highly speculative or extremely unlikely. Some refused even to comment. Meanwhile the new Martian myth grew, in anticipation of the Truth being revealed... And it was, in no uncertain terms.

In March and April 1998 the Mars Global Surveyor re-photographed Cydonia in great detail and returned the images below.

The Face, rotate it and what does become? Just another hill.

The so-called city square - No city and it isn't even square.

One of the five-sided pyramids - perhaps just a volcanic structure modified by the wind, but perfectly natural. A similar but bigger structure can be seen just east (right) of the Ceraunius Tholus volcano, which is the large cone in the centre of this Viking image below.



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