Intelligent Light on Mars
April 9, 2014
The curiosity rover on Mars continues to delight us with photographs of Mars surface. Recently the rover transmitted a photo to Earth from a section known as the Kimberley, named for a section of Australia. One of the images has an anomaly that looks like a light originating from the surface to some human eyes. Enthusiastic UFO blogger Scott Waring has proposed a theory about the anamoly. He theorizes that this photo is proof of intelligent life living under the surface of mars, and that NASA is systematically hiding it from us. Not really what I got out of the picture.
Is Waring's theory another example of motivated reasoning or perceptive insight? Lets take a look at it and see what a skeptical lay person's view may offer.
This is the photo at basic resolution with the anomaly circled.
This is NASA enhancement of the Anomaly.
Scott claims the following.
An artificial light source was seen this week in this NASA photo which shows light shining upward from...the ground. This could indicate there there is intelligent life below the ground and uses light as we do. This is not a glare from the sun, nor is it an artifact of the photo process. Look closely at the bottom of the light. It has a very flat surface giving us 100% indiction it is from the surface. Sure NASA could go and investigate it, but hey, they are not on Mars to discovery life, but there to stall its discovery.In my opinion an interesting but poorly reasoned guess. Reviewing his website reveals a number of interesting anomaly interpretations. That doesn't make him wrong just consistent.
When I looked at the photo my first thought was that it looks like a escaping subterranean gas not a light. I also thought it could be ejecta from a micro-meteoroid hit. Light of any kind wouldn't have entered my mind unless you read the title of the post. I know nothing about low atmospheric pressure, interplanetary, digital photography, so it could be light. I will deffer to experts. Lets assume that this is in fact light or a representation of what light should look like on the rover's imaging system.
Lets start with the null hypothesis. We do not know what is causing the image to look like that. Sure, it could be a subterranean alien civilization that randomly flashes light up out of the ground to alert visitors to the surface that they are down there. Also that in conjunction with these alerts our alien overlords somehow failed to warn NASA of the impending flashlight test. Plus NASA mistakenly took a picture when they should have been putting more sand over the face on mars. (A little straw man fun but not far from what he is suggesting.)
I would call his interpretation a stretch. It is more plausible theory(still laughable)to say that NASA planted that light there to make people believe that there is life on Mars. Thereby guaranteeing their budget for the next 100 years. My point being that you can draw many mutually exclusive conclusions about a single 2 dimensional photo. Possible and probable are different things.
What type of light could reproduce that light pattern.
Unless NASA has been holding out on us related to the camera on curiosity, MIT has the only camera that captures photons in transit. Meaning that this light would have to be directed at curiosity. It could be a localized flare from the atmosphere but we are talking about atmosphere far less dense than earth with absolutely no water vapor.
What might duplicate this effect is a super high powered light that is full spectrum projected upwards that produces a atmospheric flare in daylight. Not likely unless you subscribe to the theory that aliens are trying to be found. If they are trying to be found why not build 50 or 1000. Those could be seen from earth you wouldn't need a rover for that.
NASA has been non-committal to a theory. A comment from a physicist at NASA's JPL lab has the most plausible explanation. The abnormality is probably a Cosmic Ray Strike. Better known as a high energy particle from interstellar space striking the sensor producing a sensor abnormality.
So really we don't know, it could be alien flashlight, or any number of fantastic theories. Given what we know about Mars environment I find the photo highly unlikely to be signs of a subterranean light source from an advanced civilization. I find no credible reason to dismiss a cosmic ray strike, and for now that is the best explanation.....
That or the alien flashlight :)
I will be at NECSS in New York City this weekend. If you are there and can pick me out of the crowd by all means come on up and say hello.
I will be Tweeting out some stuff from the conference feel free to add me @ steveproacnp. I will try to get some good info and pics.
@Skeptoid Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit