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(the face on Mars)

The face on Mars On July 25, 1976, the Viking Orbiter I acquired images in the northern latitudes of Mars to find a suitable landing site for the Viking Lander II. JPL recieved an image from the Cydonia region with a formation that resembled a human face. It released the image in order to provide the public with an easily recognizable feature. From the JPL press release:

"The picture 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)."

JPL could not have predicted the public's response to the image, which has now become one of the most popular icons of Mars folklore. While scientists believe that the "face" is simply a result of lighting on topographical features, there are theories that the formation was artificially created. Some of these theories have supposed that the formation was built by an intelligent civilization on Mars, perhaps as a monument to a Martian deity.


On Sunday, April 1998, the Mars Global Surveyor acquired images of the "face on Mars", but at ten times the resolution of the original image, it no longer appeared so convincingly as a face, but as just another geographical feature on Mars.

For more on Cydonia Mensae:
MGS Targeted Observations

JPL Image Use Policy

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