Face on Mars

Behind the camera: Viking I space probe
Where: 40.8° N, 9.6° W Mars
Photo Summary: A mountain formation on Mars that looks like a face
Picture Taken: July 25, 1976 as the Viking 1 space probe orbited Mars
This image is in the public domain because it was taken by NASA

Together with Bat Boy, and Elvis the “Face on Mars” has haunted supermarket checkout Tabloids for years. NASA scientists call it merely an interesting rock formation that happens to look like a face. The faithful call it an artificial monument created by Martians as a sign, perhaps a warning, to us or other Aliens.

Where on Mars

The Face is a large mountain or mesa in the Cydonia region of Mars. It is located at around the 40.8° N, 9.6° W, that’s 40.8°N of the Martian equator. Approximately 3 km long and 1.5 km wide the face was first photographed on July 25, 1976, when the Viking 1 space probe was in orbit taking pictures. The Viking 1 was snapping photos of possible landing sites for its companion ship, Viking 2 when it shot what appeared to be a giant head.
The Viking spacecraft beamed the potential landing sites back to earth where NASA planners pored over the images to find a landing spot. When NASA scientists first saw the head the facial features were thought of as a neat coincidence. The decision was made to release the image in the hopes of spurring the public’s interest in Mars and space exploration in general.

Caption of JPL Viking Press Release P-17384 NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION VIKING NEWS CENTER PASADENA, CALIFORNIA (213) 354-6000 Viking 1-61
P-17384 (35A72)
PHOTO CAPTION
July 31, 1976


This picture is one of many taken in the northern latitudes of Mars by the Viking 1 Orbiter in search of a landing site for Viking 2. It shows eroded mesa-like landforms. The huge rock formation in the center, which resembles a human head, is formed by shadows giving the illusion of eyes, nose, and mouth. The feature is 1.5 kilometers (one mile) across, with the sun angle at approximately 20 degrees. The speckled appearance of the image is due to bit errors, emphasized by enlargement of the photo. The picture was taken on July 25 from a range of 1873 kilometers (1162 miles). Viking 2 will arrive in Mars orbit next Saturday (August 7) with a landing scheduled for early September.

Cydonia

Cydonia, the area of Mars where the face is located is covered with mesas that rise high in the air, the surrounding areas having been eroded by the thin Martian air, and possibly water, over billions of years. NASA Scientists saw the image as a simply a large mountain similar to mesa’s found in Arizona deserts. The low image resolution of Viking camera made the “face’s” features appear smoother than what they would be in real life. Plus the shadows give the perception of facial features. After all the brain is trained to find patterns, especially faces, in the things we see around us which is why we see things in clouds or the man on the moon. This brain’s function even has a name: pareidolia (payr.eye.DOH.lee.uh) n. The erroneous or fanciful perception of a pattern or meaning in something that is actually ambiguous or random. Finally, as talked about in the NASA caption, a bit error or a part of the image was lost in transmission appeared right where a nostril would be on a humanoid head. It is these lost “dots” or “bit errors” that give the original image a spotty appearance.

Face becomes famous

When the image was released it captured some attention but it wasn’t until the face was re-discovered three years later that it really captured the public’s imagination. Computer engineers Vincent DiPietro and Gregory Molenaar, under contract at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, had been intrigued by the face and another nearby structure shaped like a pyramid, now called the D&M pyramid after its two discoverers. Poring over NASA picture archives they found 10 images taken of the face and surrounding area but only 2 where high-resolution of the face. Using a new software they had developed called SPIT (Starburst Pixel Interleave Technique) they were able to digitally enhance the images. The results of enhanced images appeared to reveal more detail of the face including, “mouth, teeth, eye sockets, eyeball and pupil, and hairline or headress, and the FACE appears to be bysymmetrical.”

The Monuments of Mars


Some of the "Monuments of Mars" see the so-called pyramid in the bottom right hand corner.


By this time public interest in the face and the potential of a lost civilization on Mars exploded. A cottage industry of books, conventions, science fiction plots about the Face on Mars quickly sprung up seemingly lead by Richard Hoagland. In his book The Monuments of Mars: A City on the Edge of Forever he talks about the face and other surrounding formations that he and others have deemed evidence of a lost civilization. Included in these other “structures” are a pyramid, fortress, ruins of a city, and much more. Fringe groups who have thought that the pyramids of Egypt and South America were either inspired by or actually built by Aliens quickly pounced on the pyramid civilization on Mars theory as proof that Aliens have visited both planets.
Aerial images of the pyramid do look similar to the shots of the supposed pyramid on Mars. However, if the Face on Mars was an artificial structure why does it look straight up? The face itself is huge if you were to stand on the ground surrounding the structure you would have trouble making out the features so why would a civilization spend vast amounts of energy building something that they couldn’t even enjoy? Past civilizations on Earth have always built great monuments like this in a standing or upright sitting position i.e. Sphinx so that they could be viewed by worshippers/subjects on the ground.
While Hoagland and his fellow band of believers were working themselves into a fevered pitch pointing out new artificial landmarks on the Martian landscape NASA was preparing to the next Mars visitor. The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) began orbiting Mars on September 12, 1997, and much to the shock of the proponents of artificial life on Mars NASA did not first go to Cydonia to re-map the Face of Mars. NASA scientists refused to acknowledge that the Face of Mars is a priority and stated something to the effect of, we’ll get around to it eventually. The public outcry was so great to revisit the Cydonia region that NASA was forced to change its timetable and agreed to re-photograph the Face of Mars and surrounding formations as soon as possible.
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Race revealed


Image taken during the 2001 flyover


On the 5th of April,1998, MGS flew over the Cydonia region for the first time. The MGS was able to take pictures 10 times sharper than the original Viking photos. As it passed over the Face thousands of earth bond enthusiasts held their breath but … there was no face. Pictures beamed back to earth showed that the Face of Mars was in fact just another mountain and on closer inspection looks nothing like a face.
Of course, this did not faze the hard-core believers who pointed out that the Face on Mars is located at 41 degrees north Martian latitude. At that degree, it was winter in April 1998, winter on Mars is a cloudy time of year. True-believers clung to the belief that the MGS camera images were distorted by winter clouds! If only NASA could get shots on a clear Martian day. Then surely the face would be there for all to see.

On the 8th of April, 2000, such a day happened to come along. A cloudless summer day in Cydonia, MGS (MGS even now continues to orbit and photograph Mars having mapped almost 5% of Red Planet’s surface) took its most recent pictures: “We had to roll the spacecraft 25 degrees to centre the Face in the field of view,” said Jim Garvin, chief scientist for NASA Mars Exploration Program. “It’s not easy to target Cydonia,” said Dr Garvin. “In fact, it’s hard work.” MGS is a mapping satellite that looks straight down and scans like a fax machine in 2.5 km-wide strips. “We just don’t pass over the Face very often.”
Again the photos confirmed that the Face on Mars is natural not a face with no eyes, no nose, and no mouth. This time the MGS was able to use laser altimetry data to confirm even more that Face is natural.
Of course, not even this has convinced the die-hard believers. Google “Face of Mars” and you will get hundreds of sites claiming that even with the recent MGS Passovers there is enough evidence to prove that the face is artificial and that NASA is trying to cover up life on the Red Planet by providing distorting images and refusing to do certain photographic tests to prove that the Face of Mars isn’t natural. If you yourself are on the fence thousands of pictures taken by MGS have been placed online and you can scan Mar’s many volcanoes, canyons, ice fields, weather systems and even the latest images of Cydonia and the “Face.”

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Loch Ness

Behind the camera: Officially Colonel Robert Wilson but later revealed to be Ian Wetherell
Where: Northern shoreline of Loch Ness in Scotland, UK
Photo Summary: The supposed Loch Ness Monster
Picture Taken: April 19, 1934

The story goes that on April 19, 1934, Colonel Robert Wilson, a respectable surgeon, was driving along Loch Ness when something in the water caught his eye. He quickly whipped out his trusty camera and took some pictures. Rumours and sightings of the Loch Ness Monster had created a media sensation in the early 1930s. When Wilson’s picture was published, believers seized it as the irrefutable proof that some kind of large beast lived in the lake. Wilson refused to be drawn into the speculation, never publishing the picture himself and refused to have his name associated with it. Therefore the picture became know as the “The Surgeon’s Photo”

Loch Ness

Loch Ness (Loch means Lake) is 37km (23 miles) long and more or less shaped like a big rectangle with an average width of 1.5km (about a mile). With a surface area of 56 km2, (22 miles2) Loch Ness is the second largest in Scotland terms of surface area. When you take into account how deep the lake is though, deepest part 226 m (740 feet), it is the largest by volume. It’s said that Loch Ness has as much fresh water as all of England and Wales. The city of Inverness is only a few kilometers north of the Loch. The area surrounding the Loch has a high peat content that drains into and makes the lake dark and murky. Even though the lake is cloudy it supports a variety of wildlife including salmon, eels, pike, sticklebacks, sturgeon, trout, seals, otters and supposedly Nessie.
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Ancient Monster

Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man
-St. Columba

The Scottish tribes who lived in the area, the Picts, named after their Painted bodies, have many legends about a monster that lived in Loch Ness. Some of their art recovered from archaeological finds show carving of a strange water beast. Ancient historians recorded almost 1500 years ago that St. Columba, who converted much of Scotland to Christianity, had an encounter with a monster. While attending a funeral for a man who had been killed while swimming in the lake St. Columba saw that a monster was approaching another man. The ancient historian, Adamnan reports that St Columba said, “ ’Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed.’ Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes.”

It wasn’t till the 30’s that the Loch Ness legend spread outside rural Scotland. In the May 2, 1933, edition of the Inverness Courier it was reported that a Mr. and Mrs. John Mackay saw what they described as a huge animal splashing about before diving into the lake. This report sparked huge media interest throughout the country. All the major papers sent reporters to the Scottish backwater in hopes of catching a glimpse of the beast that would become to known by the nickname, “Nessie”. It was this media attention that solidified the belief some sort of monster lived in the depths of Loch Ness.

Sightings soon became commonplace and were helped by the fact that in the ’30s a new highway was built along the northern shoreline, allowing people to drive the length of the lake. One newspaper, The Daily Mail, hoping to catch the scoop hired a famous self-described big-game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherell to investigate. He wasn’t able to bag the beast but he did find some huge tracks leading into the lake that he proudly displayed to the press. When the Natural History Museum tried to confirm the find they quickly discovered that the footprints had been a hoax made by a dried Hippo’s foot. Something that at the time was commonly used for umbrella stands. Wetherell was humiliated by being taken in by the prank and bitterly faded from the limelight but his link with Nessie didn’t stop there. It wasn’t until 1994 that Wetherell’s role in the creation of the Nessie legend became public.

Wetherell’s Revenge


Model of the Nessie Submarine


Alastair Boyd, a self-described true believer, who himself witnessed a huge beast in Loch Ness has spent years researching Nessie. In the early 90’s David Martin, a friend of Alastair came across an old 1975 article detailing a claim that Ian Wetherell, the son of Marmaduke Wetherell, claimed that the surgeon photo was a fake. They decided to investigate further and found the location of Marmaduke Wetherell surviving stepson Christian Spurling, as Ian Wetherell had already died. Christian Spurling when confronted with the story, aged 90 himself and on his deathbed, confessed that yes the surgeon picture was a hoax, and the mastermind behind it was, Marmaduke Wetherell.

Instead of continuing the search after the hippo foot incident, Wetherell decided to get even. Christian Spurling his stepson remembers him saying, “we’ll give them their monster”. Spurling, a professional model-maker, was asked by his stepfather to sculpt something that would fool the public. Starting with a toy submarine Spurling added a long neck and small head. He recounted that the mock-up, “was modelled on the idea of a sea serpent.” The finished product was about 45 cm long, and about 30 cm high with a lead keel for stability on the water. On a quiet day Marmaduke Wetherell his son Ian and stepson Christian Spurling went down to the lake were Ian took some pictures of the “monster”. As a finishing touch, Marmaduke Wetherell convinced Dr. Wilson to develop the photo and sell it to the Daily Mail to add respectability to the hoax. Wetherell knew Wilson through a mutual friend, Maurice Chambers, the same man Dr. Wilson claimed he was visiting when he talked about taking the Surgeon Photo to reporters in 1934.

Still has faith


I would actually stake my life on their existence
-Alastair Boyd

Even though Alastair Boyd uncovered the hoax, he still has faith. That one of the biggest pieces of evidence supporting the existence of Nessie was a lie hasn’t fazed him, “I am so convinced of the reality of these creatures that I would actually stake my life on their existence,” recalling how he himself has seen something in the lake, “I trust my eyesight … I used to make my living teaching people how to observe, and I know that the thing I saw was not a log or an otter or a wave, or anything like that. It was a large animal.”

After the “surgeon photo” emerged in the ’30s, the general consensus was that Nessie was a leftover from the dinosaurs, maybe an ancestor of the plesiosaurs, a huge dinosaur that used fin-like appendages to move through the water. The leftover dinosaur theory is discounted though because the plesiosaurs existed millions of years ago and the loch itself is only about 12,000 years old, created by glacier excavation during the last ice age. So what is Nessie? Before the “surgeon photo” early sighting reported a large gray animal with legs and a long neck. Intrigued by this pre-“surgeon photo” sighting another researcher, Dr. Clark, spent two years investigating the legend.

Nessie an elephant?

After finishing his research, Dr. Clark suggests that Nessie was created in the mind of one Bertram Mills, a circus promoter. Clark thinks that Nessie was a “magnificent piece of marketing” created when Mills saw his circus elephants washing. Circus fairs visiting the city of Inverness would stop on the shore of Loch Ness too, “allow their animals to rest. When their elephants were allowed to swim in the loch, only the trunk and two humps could be seen: the first hump being the top of the head and the second being the back of the animal.” When the Loch Ness Monster story broke Bertram Mills offered a £20,000 reward, £1 million in today’s money, to anyone who could catch the monster. That’s a lot of money to risk but not if you know that the monster is really a couple of elephants already in your circus. Then his £20,000 reward doesn’t become a reward it becomes an advertising tool for the circus, as newspapers around the world report about Bertram Mill circus’s offer.

BBC Investigation

top to bottom … and we saw no signs of any large living animal in the loch
-Ian Florence

In 2003 the BBC tried to answer the question once and for all. Using 600 individual sonar beams and satellite technology the BBC team surveyed the murky depths of Loch Ness. “We went from shoreline to shoreline, top to bottom on this one, we have covered everything in this loch and we saw no signs of any large living animal in the loch,” said Ian Florence, one of the experts brought onto the team. Another specialist, Hugh MacKay noted, “We got some good clear data of the loch, steep sided, flat bottomed – nothing unusual I’m afraid. There was an anticipation that we would come up with a large sonar anomaly that could have been a monster – but it wasn’t to be.”

Having failed to find a large sonar target the BBC team sought to explain the Loch Ness Monster in a different light, that Nessie was a self-perpetuating myth. People wanted to see the monster after hearing about it and they saw what they wanted to see. To prove this theory the BBC team created an experiment where a fence post was submerged underwater and then raised in front of a busload of tourists. When later asked to sketch what they had seen most drew a square fence shaped object but a few drew monster-head shapes.

Using the BBC data and other previous sonar expeditions, researchers were able to conclude that not enough prey stock would exist in Loch Ness to support any large animal. The Loch’s murky waters can’t support enough fish and other wildlife to support a number of large predators needed for a self-sustaining breeding population. Another nail into the legend of Nessie’s coffin is a report by the Italian geologist, Luigi Piccardi. Piccardi came to the conclusion that seismic activity below the lake causes underwater waves, groans, and gaseous explosions that have kept the myth of the Loch Ness Monster alive for years. His report is backed up by studies that show when there is seismic activity in the area Nessie sightings seem to spike. The people who flock to Loch Ness every year don’t seem to care about all the evidence against Nessie, with many Nessie sighting still reported every year. Indeed no matter what the truth behind the Loch Ness legend one thing is for certain, the Loch Ness monster is very good for the Scottish tourist industry.

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I Want To Believe

Behind the camera: X-Files production team
Where:
Photo Summary: UFO above some trees
Picture Taken:
Feeding off a popular cultural belief in the paranormal, extraterrestrial life and government cover-ups the TV show The X-Files exploded onto the television scene when it aired in 1993. Chris Carter the series creator said he was inspired to create the show after reading a survey suggesting that 3.7 million Americans believe they had been abducted. The shows main characters Skully and Mulder became superstars and the show developed one of the largest cult following in TV history (Only being beaten by the Star Trek franchise). The show’s slogans (“The Truth Is Out There,” “Trust No One,” “Deny Everything,” “I Want to Believe”) became pop culture catchphrases. The “I Want to Believe” slogan came from a poster that hung on Mulder’s wall making the poster a Famous Picture as it came to represent believers of extraterrestrial life.

The FIGU Community picture that some claim the original picture was based on.

Birth of the Poster

The X-Files production team has been silent on the origins of the “original” poster. However, a group calling themselves the FIGU Community have claimed that the picture is based on an actual UFO taken by their UFO researchers. As proof, they offer some photos supposedly from a series that some claim the original was taken from (Larger Pictures are found on the bottom right of the site). They offer the pictures in (BMP) form so that users can download make the picture their background image.

In the actual X-Files plot, the poster is destroyed by a fire in Mulder’s office in the last episode of Season 5.

Screenshot from season 1 showing the original poster.

In the middle of Season 6 in episode “Alpha”, Mulder meets a kindred spirit: Karin Berquist, a dog whisperer who has the same poster. She dies as a result of their investigation, but after his return back to Washington, Mulder receives a package, a poster tube, of her poster. In 2008 the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History received a collection of objects including one of the set’s I want to believe posters for their exhibit.

X-Files

Created by Chris Carter the show first aired on FOX on September 10, 1993, and ended after a nine-year run on May 19, 2002.

To allow for easier merchandising the poster in Mulder’s basement office was changed to this UFO shot.

The X-Files was one of the network’s first major hits. In the series, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson play two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who are tasked with investigating the so-called “X-Files.” These cases, marginalized by the FBI, often involve paranormal phenomena. Mulder plays the role of the “believer,” having faith in the existence of aliens and the paranormal, while Scully plays the skeptic, initially assigned by her departmental superiors to debunk Mulder’s unconventional work and contain its profound implications. As the show progressed both Mulder and Scully became embroiled in the same larger conflicts (termed “the mythology” or “mytharc” by the show’s creators) and developed a close and ambiguous friendship — which some fans, known as “shippers,” saw as more than platonic. The X-Files also featured many “monster of the week” episodes ranging in tone from horror to comedy, in which Mulder and Scully investigated unique, stand-alone cases that did not usually have long-term implications.

The show’s popularity peaked in the mid-to-late ’90s, even inspiring a hit movie in 1998. But in the last two seasons, Anderson became the star as Duchovny appeared rarely, and new central characters were introduced: FBI Agents John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish). At the time of its final episode, The X-Files was the longest running sci-fi show in American television history, a title since lost to Stargate SG-1.

Is the poster real?

The replacement poster shown in a screenshot taken from season 7

This version of the poster is the poster that was shown in the first season of the show hanging on the wall of Mulder’s basement FBI X-Files office. The poster was an original image created by the X-files production team and couldn’t be mass produced. To rectify this problem the X-Files merchandising team changed the poster by adding the “I want to believe” text to an existing UFO image. Other companies were quick to cash in on the confusion created their own versions so that now several “I want to believe” posters exist.

Click below pictures for more information


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