The Religion of the Face on Mars

Email about the Face on Mars
Email about the Face on Mars

A few days ago I received the email shown above from a person in Italy. Note that I have slightly cropped the images to fit the space available here. I assume that this email was directed to me because of my previous writings that the so called “Face on Mars” is nothing more than a mesa. In the email I'm not sure if they're referring to the Face on Mars as a miracle or if the writer is being sarcastic and referring to the subsequent images as miracles of deception. I think the latter based on the reference to the original Viking image as true and the subsequent images as less than true.

Nobody likes having their religion challenged and for those people who believe that the Face on Mars is an artifical structure built by some alien race, these are clearly hard times. Recent imaging by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey missions, as well as ESA's Mars Express (see this Astronomy Picture of the Day image), have clearly shown this feature to be nothing more than a naturally formed mesa in a region of Mars (Cydonia Mensae) in which mesas are common. Clearly, believers in the alien artifact religion are hard pressed.

That they are so hard pressed is further evident in how they choose to present relevant imagery. For example, take a look at the image below. The inset image is the original Mars Odyssey THEMIS image of the Face from the email. The main image is the original version from the Mars Odyssey web site found here. It's clear that the version in the email has had its contrast enhanced and highlights boosted, obliterating detail present in the original image thus making the face look more artificial. Purveyors of this religion rely heavily on the ignorance of their audience.

Mars Odyssey Themis image of the Face on Mars
Mars Odyssey Themis image of the Face on Mars with inset image from email.

Why do I call this belief a religion? Because people still cling to this belief in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Which reminds me of a parallel situation. Over 100 years ago the astronomer Percival Lowell offered a complex and coherent explanation for the linear features that he observed telescopically on the surface of Mars. He claimed that they were actually irrigation canals built by the Martians to irrigate the equatorial regions of their dying planet. Despite mounting evidence that the lines he saw were nothing more than optical illusions, and no additional supporting evidence, Lowell clung to his belief – though for Lowell it was not a religion.

One good thing came about as a result of the email I received. In response to this email, I have just published on my Mars Art Gallery web site an article I had written last year discussing the Face on Mars and the visual perception law known as the Law of Pr├Ągnanz. If not for this email, this article would probably have never seen the light of day. The Law of Pr├Ągnanz and the Face on Mars is an article that explains why we perceive the face on Mars as a face. So my thanks to the sender of the email as that provided me the motivation to dust off the article and go public with it.

Ad Astra, Jim

| Return to the Blog Index | This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008 at 4:04 pmand is filed under Mars.

7 Responses to “The Religion of the Face on Mars”

  1. mdr says:
    July 4, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I think it would be kind of “neat” if there was a face on Mars in actuality. That said, your contrasting of the two photos does seem decisive. I will restrain from a final judgment until I'm standing on the mesa, spacesuit and all. In the meantime, I will simply say… “It's possible (that it is a face), but unlikely.”

  2. Plaxco says:
    July 5, 2008 at 8:08 am

    Hi MDR,

    Wanting to see human missions to Mars myself, I of course wish that the “Face on Mars” was artificial. I can think of no greater spur for the human exploration of Mars than the discovery of the remains of an intelligent civilization. But all evidence points to this being a natural feature. The only evidence for it being artificial is that which comes from the human imagination. In fact there are other artificially created looking features on Mars but because they do not look like a face, they do not attract attention.

    Thanks for your thoughts. Jim

  3. Hannah says:
    February 9, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Hello,
    In school at the moment we are doing a project on Space and life on other planets. I think that this picture is really cool and hope that it is real, but doubt it is, along with the others in my class. just wondering what scale is this meant to be? Because even with telescopes you wouldnt be able to see something as small as a human face and compared to the crators, in other pictures they look similar size and cratora can be massive!
    Just wondering..
    Hannah
    x0x year 10

  4. Plaxco says:
    February 17, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Hi Hannah,

    You are exactly right about scale. If you can, find a picture of the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt. The Great Pyramid is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and is around 4,500 years old. In fact it is the only one of the seven ancient wonders that still survives. Size wise, the pyramid is 750 feet long by 750 feet wide and around 450 feet tall.

    Comparatively, the mesa that is called The Face on Mars is almost 8,000 feet long, over 6,000 feet wide, and around 1,500 feet tall. Hmmm, I wonder just how many Great Pyramids of Giza it would take to equal the volume of The Face on Mars?

  5. Chris says:
    August 22, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    I see this picture and I cant help but wonder “what if?”. I know it's about 99.9999999% improbable, but what if? I hope one day in the near future mankind will step foot on mars and do a little digging around. I know what we are expected to find on that dust bowl of a planet, but if there is anything from man made objects, to a fossil record of any type I will die a happy man. I know without a doubt there is life somewhere in the universe, but imagine… in our own solar system… right next door! If we can find ANY evidence of life on Mars that will fuel the demand for space explorations for many generations! I think it is just what we need to give humanity the push towards exploration of other planets, and hopfully one day other solar systems!

  6. Daniel Astbury says:
    December 1, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    It is a shame that people keep talking about mars and the “Face on mars” as if it is the only mystery we have found in the universe….errr excuse me if I'm wrong… but what isn't a mystery? Why do we need to find a face on mars in order to be amazed and excited. I wake up every morning and as soon as I open my eyes I'm looking at a MIRACLE and a wonderful, unexplainable MYSTERY!! Or did I miss something… do scientists already know why we exist??? I don't think so, because if they knew that, why would they still be trying to find the reasons for our being here, and for why we exist at all. Stop thinking you have to see a giant pyramid or a Stonehenge, or a face on mars to feel excited about life. I don't care if there is a face on mars or not. If there is that is good, and we should look closer at it. If there isn't… why be sad??? Are you that ignorant? Are you that full of canned stale knowledge? I call meaningless crap, fake truth. NO ONE KNOWS WHY WE ARE HERE. So stop looking up for a Miracle, look in front of your eyes, look in the mirror. Look at the trees and the birds… we don't know what they are or why they are here. We just label everything and then treat that label as truth. And that, I call madness. And for those people who say, “I don't believe in Aliens”…. so what are you then?? WOW do you know the meaning of life??? Do you know where you came from, what created you, and why the universe exists??? I don't think you do somehow. So stop saying you “believe this” or “don't believe that”, don't believe in anything, just QUESTION AND LEARN. Thank you

  7. Jeff says:
    November 16, 2010 at 5:19 am

    Wanting to see human missions to Mars myself, I of course wish that the "Face on Mars" was artificial. I can think of no greater spur for the human exploration of Mars than the discovery of the remains of an intelligent civilization. But all evidence points to this being a natural feature. The only evidence for it being artificial is that which comes from the human imagination. In fact there are other artificially created looking features on Mars but because they do not look like a face, they do not attract attention.