Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Pravda Gets It Wrong

Humanoid face mysteriously disappears from Mars

"On June 25, 1995 the NASA administration included the test photoshoot of the Martian face in the program flight of Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The mission control received the long-awaited photos on April 5th, 1998. The spacecraft took pictures of the face from the height of 440 kilometers (in 1976 the images were taken from the height of 1,870 kilometers). To everyone's great disappointment, the photos depicted only uneven landscape - one could not see any facial outlines on them at all."

JPL's 1998 "catbox" "enhancement" on the Face on Mars.

This colorful account from Pravda -- the Russian equivalent to the West's Weekly World News -- reiterates one of the most depressing aspects of the Mars Global Surveyor's infamous 1998 reimaging of the Face on Mars: the conviction that the facial likeness observed in the Viking images had somehow vanished, mirage-like, into the Cydonian terrain upon closer investigation.

Viking frame 35A72: our first look at the Face (1976).

The 1998 image initially released to the news media had been subjected to a high-pass filter, a digital imaging process used to suppress detail. It's virtually certain that JPL/NASA's use of the filter was intentional and thus disingenuous -- a near-effortless attempt to erase the Face from the public conscience. Tellingly, subsequent images were spared the grainy, substandard appearance generated by the high-pass filter.

Few, if any, independent Mars researchers were fooled. But Pravda's naive treatment of the subject shows that JPL's trickery continues to generate confusion on an international level.

Above is a conventionally processed image of the 1998 photo (inverted to simulate original Viking lighting conditions). On a related note, I find it disturbingly ironic that image processor Lan Fleming's effort to reproduce JPL's "catbox" image is actually a bit more discernable than the "official" attempt to obliterate the Face.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Let's Dig!

NASA Mars Picture of the Day: Sedimentary Rock Outcrops

"The dozens and dozens of sedimentary rock layers of repeated thickness and similar physical properties at this location suggest that they may have been deposited in a lacustrine (lake) setting. The crater in which these layers occur may once have been completely filled and buried, as is the case for many craters in the Sinus Meridiani region."

We need to be digging for fossils here.

In person.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Spirit's "Magic Carpet" Revisited

NASA Scientist Sees Possible Mat of Martian Microbes

"'I think there's really something there," McKay told 'There is some cohesiveness to that material. Talk about the Magic Carpet just went away. I don't think it should have gone away.'"

That makes two of us.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Looking Forward to This . . .

NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Status

"Possible launch dates from Cape Canaveral, Fla., for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter begin Aug. 10, 2005. The spacecraft will reach Mars seven months later to study the surface, subsurface and atmosphere with the most powerful instrument suite ever flown to the red planet."

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Mars Gone Wild; Wired Gone Mild

Mars Gone Wild

"Clearly, Clarke is no wild eccentric; he invented the concept of satellite broadcasting and was knighted by the Queen of England. What caught his eye is a genuine enigma: a forest of large round blobs with branchlike structures that visibly expand and shrink over the seasons, which Clarke said looked like 'banyan trees.' Though most space scientists attribute these 'dark dune spots' to Martian frost, a group of researchers at the Institute of Advanced Study in Budapest concurs with Clarke, calling the photos evidence of 'probable Martian surface organisms.' Clarke finds further signs of life in the images taken earlier this year by the rovers Spirit and Opportunity. 'I've seen the latest microphotos, and some of them look very biological to me,' he wrote by email. 'But I'm not competent to decide.'"