Does the face on Mars prove aliens or UFOs, or is it just a photographic illusion?

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Why is there a face on Mars?

The face  The face -- not!

NASA photos

Quick-read this article:
What looked like a giant face in photographs of Mars turned out to be an optical illusion. The “face” is formed by shadows on natural formations.

A popular belief in the 1980s was that a human-like face and other constructions exist on Mars. Proponents of this idea based their belief on some photos taken from the Viking mission in the 1970s (see NASA's “face” photo on the left above).

Many more scientists said this was just a natural phenomenon produced by the angle of sunlight falling on normal geographic features.

More than 54,000 photos were taken during NASA's Viking and Mariner probes to Mars. They showed the planet to be a desolate, wind-swept place. But some people claimed that some of the photos showed intelligently constructed artifacts such as pyramids, a city, a fort, and other features.

What is the answer?

It is true that Viking photos numbered 35A72 and 70A13 show what looks like a half-shaded face on Mars. But both those pictures were taken when the sun was shining from a fairly low angle, and the shaded areas play a major part in what is imagined to be a whole face.

Just as imagination takes over when we see shapes of familiar objects in cloud formations and inkblot tests, so imagination is the major contributor to the face on Mars.

There is a lesson to be learned from some honeycomb structures that suggested to some that a city once existed on Mars near the face. These “honeycomb cells” were so geometrically perfect that some people said they had to have been engineered by intelligent beings. But when imaging specialist Gene Cordell investigated, he found that the honeycomb pattern was not on Mars, but was formed during the film-processing technique!

Not surprisingly, more recent photos of the “face” (such as the photo on the right above) have shown it is not a face at all, but is clearly just a natural surface formation.

See NASA's article, "Unmasking the face on Mars".

End of section

Mars facts

  • Mars is the fourth planet from the sun (Mercury, Venus, Earth, come before it).
  • It was named after the Roman god of war, because of its reddish color.
  • It is only about half the size of earth, but its mountains and valleys are larger than any on earth.
  • A Martian day is not much longer than earth's at 24½ hours, but its year is about 687 earth days.
  • It has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos.
  • Although it has lines that look like dried-up river beds, Mars has no running water, because its temperature is way below zero. Any moisture is frozen.
  • Being so cold on Mars you might want to make a fire. But there is no fuel on Mars. Nothing on the planet would burn because there is so little oxygen in its atmosphere.
  • If you got some water ice from the polar cap and heated it, it wouldn't melt into water, but would disappear into gas. There is not enough atmospheric pressure to allow it to remain as a liquid.

Although some people still think that life may exist on Mars, there is no possibility that life as we know it could exist there. This is another good reason to dismiss the idea that intelligent living beings could have made the face on Mars, and that it is a natural surface formation.

Visit Mars on Google maps

Google has a map of Mars. See it at

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