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.