Select Language

Cart Cart

Advanced Search
Solar System
Media and Links



Preliminary analysis of 2001 April 8 Cydonia Face image

Tom Van Flandern, Metaresearch

Abstract. NASA/JPL/MSSS has finally taken a high-resolution image of the full Cydonia Face under good lighting conditions. Tests of artificiality that meet the most rigorous standards of scientific method are available. The analysis strongly confirms the earlier findings of artificiality, establishes some mirror-symmetry for the two sides of the face, and shows that certain visual asymmetries (irrelevant to artificiality tests) can be attributed to a large crater-forming event. Regrettably, JPL and MSSS employees have initiated a pre-emptive campaign to discredit results of any further analysis supportive of artificiality by claiming such results must be based on bias, belief, or saving face. Such behavior and claims disputing artificiality without analysis or peer review is inconsistent with scientific conduct, and interferes with getting at the truth by those who follow the rules of scientific procedure.

Previous artificiality evidence for west side of Face

References [1]-[7] are past Meta Research Bulletin articles by this author dealing with the artificiality issue. The six authors of reference [8] are all members of the Society for Planetary SETI Research (SPSR [9]).

The Cydonia “Face” was discovered in the original Viking spacecraft images taken in 1976. Only the west side was sunlit (“west” = “left” as we view it), but the image appeared to show an unusually regular mesa enclosure, plus eye, nose, and mouth features. Visual appearance alone in discovery images cannot form the basis for drawing conclusions, but only for forming hypotheses. This is because such findings are a posteriori, and therefore probability-of-occurrence statistics do not apply. Expressed less technically, products of nature that look like faces appear sometimes in clouds, landscapes, and noisy backgrounds; and conversely, real sculpted faces can look very un-face-like with bad lighting, oblique orientation, or subsequent damage. Given an indefinitely large field of possible shapes, such as a planet’s surface, many regular shapes are expected to occur entirely by chance.

From the Viking imagery, two alternative hypotheses emerged:

(1) The natural hypothesis. The Cydonia Face owed its face-like appearance to a trick of light and shadow or a geological anomaly. Later images showing the other side or the same side at much higher resolution should reveal the normal randomness expected in nature. The probability of finding a mirror-symmetric face in the area hidden by shadow is negligible because the east-side features would have to match those on the west side in location, orientation, size, and mirrored shape.

(2) The artificial hypothesis. The Cydonia Face is not a product of nature, and its hominid face-like appearance resulted from construction by an intelligent species. In that case, reasonable inferences are that the hidden shadowed side would be mirror-symmetric, the regular enclosure wall would be complete, the east side would have another eye feature, and the mouth feature would continue through from the west to the east side by a comparable distance. Moreover, if this was an attempt to portray a hominid face, as it appeared to be, then secondary facial features should be revealed at higher resolution; specifically, we would expect to see eyebrows over the eye sockets, irises in the eye sockets, nostrils at the end of the nose, and separate lips forming the mouth. Without a noisy background to permit our minds to choose features that fit our preconceptions, the appearance of such features would be definitive indicators of artificial construction.

Subsequent to hypothesis formulation, analysis of two 1976 Viking images of the Face at different Sun angles revealed that the original facial features were three-dimensional and persisted at other viewing and lighting angles; that the mesa enclosure was reasonably symmetric all around; and that a mirror-symmetric east-side eye and mouth feature probably existed. [1] Combined with evidence that the Cydonia Face was right on the former location of the Martian equator, and oriented upright with respect to it, the artificial origin hypothesis was already starting to look heavily favored by the evidence. [1] This also implied a connection with the exploded planet hypothesis, in which Mars is a former moon of an exploded planet that may have harbored life, but is not itself the parent planet of the hypothetical builders. [1] If that connection is valid, the explosion event ending the builder’s civilization can be placed at 3.2 million years ago. [1]

When the Cydonia Face was imaged at high resolution by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft on 1998 April 5, the viewing angle and lighting conditions permitted unobstructed views of only the west side of the Face mesa. Nonetheless, to the amazement of the independent scientists who made the predictions, the image showed definitive evidence of an iris and eyebrow on the west side, nostrils at the end of a nose feature tapered toward the forehead, and parted lips for the mouth feature. [2] Later, improved image processing techniques could compensate and correct for the poor viewing angle and lighting conditions, making these features more visually evident by restoring orthogonality. [4]

The existence of these features fulfilled the predictions of the artificiality hypothesis, and effectively falsified the predictions of the natural-origin hypothesis. Table I, which originally appeared in [8], shows conservative estimates of the probability that each additional detail would have occurred by chance. For example, the “eyebrow” feature has (generously) only 1 chance in 35 of being located by chance within the acceptable range of area on the mesa that might be taken as an attempt to portray a real facial eyebrow. (The feature seen is actually near the optimum location for such a portrayal.) We judge (generously) that anything from 10/54 to 27/54 of the width of the mesa would have been an acceptable size for this feature (although the actual size is near the optimum size).

Closed triangle shapes are rare in nature, and from a sample of 10,000 presumed-natural features on the Moon where no closed triangles with linear sides and angular vertices arose by chance, we estimated the probability of one arising by chance to serve as an eyebrow-portrayal on this mesa as less than 1 in 10,000. We also (generously) considered that any tilt within a 30 range would have been argued as a “hit”, even though this feature is close to the optimum orientation for portraying an eyebrow. And most importantly, we found no other features in the background that could have passed as eyebrows, assuring that we are really dealing with the odds of a unique event occurring at a pre-specified location and orientation and having a pre-specified size and shape. (The “pre-specification” is implicit in the range of characteristics of hominid faces.) The combined odds against all four attributes for this one feature arising by chance are 1 in 13 million.



location size shape orientation background
Eyebrow over Eye 1/35 (27-10)/54 1/10,000 30/360 No
Iris in Eye Socket 1/23 (12-2)/54 1 1 No
Nostrils on Nose 1/80 (9-2)/54 1 30/180 No
Lips on Mouth 1/62 (28-12)/54 1/1,000 30/180 No
Column definitions –
Location: Ratio of the area in which the center of the feature could be located to be considered a secondary facial feature portrayal, to the area of the whole Face mesa.
Size: Ratio of the difference between the maximum and minimum width for a feature to be considered a secondary facial feature, to the width of the mesa.
Shape: Maximum ratio of the number of occurrences of the particular shape used to portray the specific secondary facial feature on other moon or planet surfaces, to the total number of features of all shapes.
Orientation: Ratio of the range in degrees for the feature to be considered as a secondary facial feature portrayal, to the applicable maximum number of degrees possible.
Background: Does the feature fall outside the specified range for any attribute, or do similar features appear anywhere else on the mesa?


We performed similar analyses for the other features. These statistics are valid scientifically because they are all the result of a priori predictions with an obvious basis made before the confirming image existed. Indeed, anyone presented with the same pair of competing hypotheses could have made the same predictions in advance. Therefore, these odds against chance must be taken as significant – unlike odds calculated after the fact (a posteriori), which are significant only for the next instance, not the one already found.

Comparison of 1976 Viking, 1998 MGS, and 2001 MGS images

Figure 1. Comparison of 1976 Viking, 1998 MGS, and 2001 MGS images

The conclusion of the analysis is that the combined odds against chance are more than 1018 to 1. (Combined with conservative a priori odds against the symmetry found for the enclosure and location of the mesa on the former equator at an upright orientation, these odds are even further increased.) Therefore, using the a priori principle, the artificiality of the west side of the mesa is established beyond a reasonable doubt.

New image assessment for east side of Face

On 2001 May 24, NASA/JPL/MSSS (JPL = “Jet Propulsion Laboratory”; MSSS = “Malin Space Science Systems”) released a new, full image of the Cydonia Face with good resolution and lighting - the first time much of the east side of this mesa has been imaged at high resolution.

2001 April 8 image of Cydonia Face

Figure 2. 2001 April 8 image of Cydonia Face. This is the raw data, uncorrected for skew or CCD striping. The striping produces the parallel linear streaks from upper right to lower left, and is in the camera, not on Mars.

The mere existence of this imagery presents an opportunity for major scientific discovery through the further testing of the natural-origin and artificial-origin hypotheses. Serious analysis of the new image, taken on April 8, has just begun. The following presents some of our early findings.

As we have explained, visual appearance alone cannot be used as a basis for judging whether a feature is of natural or artificial origin. The sequence in Figure 1 shows one of the original Viking discovery images in 1976 (medium resolution), the 1998 MGS image (taken from an oblique angle), and the 2001 MGS image (greatest detail), all unfiltered and representing the actual spacecraft data, side-by-side for comparison. These will normally be seen as “face-like” or “un-face-like” in accord with the biases of the viewer. Using appearance alone, objective criteria are absent, and opinions will vary.

The primary scientific tool for judging artificiality is the "a priori principle". Nothing in the 2001 image provides cause to alter conclusions previously drawn from that principle for the west side of the Face (by comparing the predictions made from the 1976 low-resolution Viking west-side images with the 1998 high-resolution MGS west-side image). In light of that fact, if no facial features were found on the east side, the simplest explanation would be alteration (e.g., by accumulated sand or debris) rather than a face with one artificial side and one natural side.

            That said, let us examine the new image in more detail. See Figure 2. Here we chose to use the raw spacecraft data rather than the image processed by MSSS to assure that all details in the original image are retained. The primary consequence of this choice is the existence of some streaking (parallel lines from upper right to lower left), which is a characteristic of the CCD chip used in the camera and not of the scene on Mars being imaged. The streaks are vertical in the original image; and we have here rotated the image so that the mesa walls forming the “enclosure” are vertical. This is fair to do because we showed previously that this Cydonia Face was originally on the equator of Mars and oriented upright. The re-orientation took no notice of apparent facial details, and therefore did not bias tests of bilateral symmetry described below.

Image analysis

The first and most obvious conclusion is that the east side of the Face is not a good overall mirror-image of the west side because of the presence of large, irregular, random-looking shapes. At the same time, we notice a striking degree of symmetry, especially for the mesa enclosure (both outside and inside edges thereof), but also for the facial features.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Left: Kelly Face from processing of 1998 image, to locate facial features.  Right: 2001 image for comparison.

For example, the east eye and mouth both exist; and the orientation of the apparent face is almost identical with the orientation of the mesa. All these purely visual factors, whether suggestive of natural or artificial origin, leave judgments based on visual appearance alone as subjective and ambiguous as they have always been.

       Figure 4

Figure 4. Close-up of east “eye socket”.

Figure 5

Figure 5. Same as Figure 4, but with visible (top) portion of “iris” feature marked.

Our primary concerns are with the predictions of the artificiality hypothesis of the existence of an east eye socket, eyebrow, iris, mouth continuation, and lips; so we will focus our attention on these. If they are present despite the extreme improbability of that happening by chance, then artificiality is supported for the east side of the Face, as it is already for the west side. If these are not present, then we need to reassess our conclusions because the results for the two sides would be opposite.

To facilitate recognition of the facial features referred to here, in Figure 3 we show a comparison of the new image with the processed 1998 Kelly Face [5], in which the more favorable lighting and shadows make identifications of facial features more obvious. The east side of the new image is in shadow this time, so contrast for features seen there is low. We direct our attention to the feature that apparently serves as an “eye socket” on the east side, shown in Figure 4. Out of all the places on the mesa such an eye-like feature might happen to be located by chance, if it existed at all, this one just happens to be directly opposite the nose ridge from the west eye socket, at the correct horizontal and vertical location on the mesa, with about the right size and orientation.

However, the shape fails to be a good match to the corresponding west side feature, and is a bit too narrow for a hominid eye, creating an “animal face” character to the east side. A single large, irregular, melt-like feature with well-delineated borders that dominates the east side of the Face extends up the Face just far enough to partially obscure the lower portion of this “eye-socket” feature. If it were not for the presence of this “melt” feature, the “eye socket” feature might also have had the horizontal oval shape expected for a hominid eye-socket portrayal.

Figure 6    

Figure 6. Markings show a comparison of the west and east "iris" features at the same scale and at the same vertical position on the mesa

Is there an “iris” inside the “eye socket”? Figure 4 reveals a suggestion of the top portion of such a circular feature roughly in the middle of the extrapolated complete oval-shaped eye socket that might have been seen but for the obscuration of its lower portion. This is marked for easy identification in Figure 5. (Note: The “iris” feature in Figure 4 has been independently discovered by others. However, when confirming it, recall that image quality varies greatly from monitor to monitor and from one print medium to another. To study these features, work on a high-quality monitor with a high screen resolution, and view a magnified version of the original raw data or of Figure 2 from the Meta Research web site. [10]) The lower half of the “iris”, presuming it exists, is apparently obscured, consistent with the obscuration seen for the “eye socket”. Allowing for incompleteness caused by that obscuration, the “iris” has the correct size, shape and location on the mesa, orientation not being relevant for a circular feature.

Because this feature is of importance to the objective artificiality hypothesis evaluation, we show some additional match-up details in Figure 6. This uses markings to show both the west and east “iris” features from Figure 2. (With the lighting in Figure 2, the west “iris” has very low contrast, but can be unambiguously located with the help of the 1998 Face image. [8]) Care was taken to present both at the same scale with comparable brightness and contrast, and to preserve the vertical position of both features on the mesa to see how well they line up across from one another on the Face. It may be seen at a glance that both features are closely the same size and line up vertically very well on the Face. To examine the horizontal placement, we must make allowance for a small stretching of west-side features relative to east side ones because the spacecraft had to rotate about 25 off the nadir when this image was taken, and the mesa slopes downward on both sides of the nose ridge. Then we see that the horizontal locations of these respective “iris” features – the distances from the west and east mesa edges and from the centerline of the Face – are likewise equivalent to within the errors of measurement.



Figure 7

Figure 7. Comparison of west and east “eyebrow” features.

Figure 8

Figure 8. East “eyebrow” feature (right) marked. Same triangle is mirrored onto west side of mesa, where it almost perfectly overlaps the west “eyebrow” feature.

Is there an east “eyebrow” feature? Figure 7 shows a comparison of portions of the mesa just over the “eye socket” features on the west and east sides, taken at identical vertical locations and at mirror-equivalent horizontal locations on the mesa, with brightness and contrast levels adjusted to agree. The west extract was scaled horizontally (shrunk about 22%) to compensate for the aforementioned stretch due to mesa slope and viewing angle.

To make the comparison, we first marked the triangular feature in the east extract (right image), as shown in Figure 8. In doing so, we had to ignore the streaks in this raw data that are not a part of the real image. We also had to ignore some other albedo contours of comparable or greater intensity that are part of the real image, but have no counterparts on the west side. The justification for doing this is that we knew from the west side that we were seeking a closed triangular shape (which is rare in nature), and the east side has some overlaid material such as the “melt” feature from some sort of alteration event. (More on that below.)

Therefore, this east-side test is not independent of the west-side test, and the east eyebrow feature resides in a noisy background. Moreover, even the triangularity of the west side is somewhat compromised with this lighting, although it was of high quality in the 1998 image. That changes the character of this test. Rather than independent evidence for artificiality, it becomes evidence for consistency and symmetry. For that reason, we have not extended Table I with corresponding probabilities for east-side features because such probabilities would not be independent.

The next step was to mirror the markings from the east (right) side to the west (left) side without respect to content in the west extract in Figure 8. Amazingly, when this is done, the mirrored markings almost perfectly outline the previously identified triangular “eyebrow” feature on the west side. This is very strong evidence for left-right mirror symmetry for this Face. It seems clear from these considerations that, not only is the east side consistent with west-side artificiality evidence, but suggestions that the east side is not hominid-like are mistaken. The “eye socket”, “iris” and “eyebrow” features apparently would have excellent mirror symmetry if allowance is made for the “melt” overlay of the bottom portion of the “eye”.

Although the “nose” feature was previously shown to have a tapered shape toward the forehead and two “nostrils” at its lower end, these features are less readily seen in the new image. However, it was easy to see the “nostrils” in the 1998 image because the lighting came from a low Sun angle almost directly below the Face. In the 2001 image, the Sun is high and well to the west, illuminating only one “nostril”. Close inspection of this image reveals the second circular “nostril” in a darkly shadowed area. However, the two images are complementary in that the new image shows the nostril features to be more or less circular, something difficult to judge from the 1998 image because so few gray-scale levels were involved.

Figure 9

Figure 9. Striped objects on SW enclosure wall.

The last questions for evaluating artificiality were whether or not the “mouth” feature went through to the east side by a comparable distance, and also consisted of parted “lips”, as on the west side. Inspection of Figure 2 shows an affirmative answer to these questions. A similar “ravine” seems to exist on east and west sides, portraying parted “lips”. However, as for the “eye” feature, this east-side “mouth” feature is partially filled by the same “melt” pattern as before. The “mouth” feature also seems mildly displaced upward. We therefore conclude that the symmetry could be perfect but for this “melt” feature. This symmetry is consistent with artificiality for both sides of the Face, but with an alteration event of some sort affecting the east side. We examine this in the next section.

The final analysis point is to note the curious and rather artificial-looking striped objects lying on the mesa enclosure wall in the southwest corner (Figure 9). Someday, when this mesa is examined for “ground truth” by future scientists, this may be one of the first places we will wish to look for clues to the origin and construction of this enigmatic structure.

Alteration event

We could not address possible causes of asymmetry earlier without introducing bias into the analysis, because if symmetry exists, that must be a conclusion, not an assumption.

    Figure 10

Figure 10. Apparent crater (left) from SE of Face, a possible source of “melt” damage, is marked on the right.

With artificiality and probable symmetry now established by our analysis, what can we say about the nature and cause of the “melt” feature on the east side? First, the suggestion of melting arose from its smoothness and flow-like patterns with apparent pooling. It is as if something heated the materials used in the construction of the Face features, causing them to flow like lava, pool, and cool until solid again. Apparently, the raised rim of the mesa enclosure wall contained this flow. It is not normal for crater-forming events to produce a melt pattern. The energy of impact is so great (because of high relative speeds induced by gravity) that the matter in the impacting meteoroid and much of the terrain on which it strikes is vaporized. Indeed, with a further adjustment of the contrast in this shadowed area, we see an almost-complete circular arc in the bottom right portion of the mesa that is suggestive of an impact crater (Figure 10). However, if that is what actually happened, the material into which that meteoroid impacted was not normal rock that would have vaporized.

figure11.jpg (13584 bytes)    

Figure 11. Striations near possible impact crater.

This suggests that the Face mesa is not simply a sculpture on a naturally occurring mesa, but may have used artificial materials in its construction – high-strength, high-energy absorbency materials that melted and flowed in response to the impact event. Although this inference that the building materials for the Face are also artificial rather than carved natural rock is a bit speculative, it is in accord with the highly regular shape of this entire mesa and its striking contrast with the very flat terrain that surrounds it for many miles in most directions. Moreover, if a suitable natural-rock mesa with such a regular shape did exist, it is rather unlikely to have been located on the old Martian equator where we find the Face. [1] So the possibility of a mesa completely constructed from artificial materials cannot be dismissed.

Melt flow from the hypothetical impact event would have partially filled the “mouth” and “eye” features on the east side, while the blast energy pushed the “mouth” upward and the “nose” a bit westward, perhaps throwing debris and boulders elsewhere on the mesa. The “nose” ridge would have blocked most such debris from getting to the west side; but some of it may have reached the forehead, accounting for some of the unexplained lines we see there accompanying the triangular eyebrow feature. This impact event might also have been responsible for intriguing linear striations on the outer wall in the southeast mesa corner, as first noted by SPSR member Lan Fleming. See Figure 11. However, these striations look too parallel to be radial to the impact site. So the details of the impact event, indeed even the determination that it was naturally occurring (as opposed to something done by the builders), must await further data and perhaps ground exploration.

Anti-scientific conduct

Here is a quote from Robert Nemiroff & Jerry Bonnell with the 2001 May 28 Astronomy Image of the Day for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center:

“Wouldn't it be fun if clouds were turtles? Wouldn't it be fun if the laundry on the bedroom chair was a friendly monster? Wouldn't it be fun if rock mesas on Mars were faces or interplanetary monuments? Clouds, though, are small water droplets, floating on air. Laundry is cotton, wool, or plastic, woven into garments. Famous Martian rock mesas known by names like the Face on Mars appear quite natural when seen more clearly, as the above recently released photo shows. Is reality boring?”

The key to successful scientific tests of hypotheses is removing the influence of ever-present experimenter biases. As an illustration of these biases in operation, many people (not just NASA/JPL/MSSS scientists) accused Face-artificiality proponents of using visual appearance to judge artificiality (the “faces in clouds” argument), and correctly pointed out that such an appearance-based judgment was implicitly subjective and unreliable. Now that we have a full image and can see some asymmetries on the two sides, some of these same individuals are now citing visual appearance (lack of obvious mirror symmetry) as a reason to reject artificiality. However, that is equally subjective and unreliable, as their good sense would tell them if they were not operating from bias – for example, the bias from having already taken a public position on this issue, or the bias created by peer pressure.

Because of their key roles in observational discoveries in the U.S. space program, NASA, JPL and MSSS have the attention of the media whenever they wish to have it. So these agencies have the power to ridicule any image, interpretation, or scientist whom they choose; to make sound-byte pronouncements off-the-cuff without peer review; and to prejudice the media, the journals, and the public on any subject within their purview, or to poison the climate for its reception. When such power is wielded, the results can set back scientific progress.

Here are quotes from BBC News, 2001 May 25:

“… space agency scientists know their work is in vain. Just as with previous pictures of the ‘face’, there are some who will dismiss this latest image as propaganda. ‘What can you do?’ one scientist told BBC News Online, ‘They're loonytunes.’ …”

“Although no reputable scientist believed the Face was an alien artifact…”

“But sure as the planet is red, someone will not be able to face the facts.”

First, we have an anonymous scientist using ridicule. Then scientists taking the artificiality hypothesis seriously are dismissed as not “reputable”. Finally, we see an implication that if someone does not agree with this opinion, that someone is at fault because he/she cannot accept the facts. However, ridicule is off-limits in science because it attempts to win an argument by creating bias. The use of ridicule can ordinarily be taken as an indication that the person using it has nothing better to offer to defend his/her position. The implication of disreputability is a classical ad hominem argument, in which an attack on the scientist or messenger is used in lieu of an attack on the idea he/she represents. It also ordinarily indicates that the idea has no obvious or major weaknesses that can be addressed. Calling a disputed point a “fact” is a type of “appeal to authority” (forbidden by the rules of science because only observations, experiments, and reasoning are credited in science, but not the opinions of authorities or votes of majorities). Real facts speak for themselves, and do not need an authority or exaggeration to give them weight. And associating opponents with persons who deny facts is again an attack on the character of persons instead of the ideas they represent – an attempt to win by creating bias.

Here is a quote from NASA News, 2001 May 24, reprinted in May 30:

“MOLA [Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter] can measure the heights of objects with a vertical precision of 7.9 to 11.8 inches (20 to 30 centimeters). (Its horizontal resolution is 492 feet, or 150 meters.) ‘We took hundreds of altitude measurements of the mesa-like features around Cydonia,’ said Garvin, ‘including the Face. The height of the Face, its volume and aspect ratio -- all of its dimensions, in fact -- are similar to the other mesas. It's not exotic in any way.’ The laser altimetry data are perhaps even more convincing than overhead photos that the Face is natural. 3-D elevation maps reveal the formation from any angle, unaltered by lights and shadow. There are no eyes, no nose and no mouth!”

Here is the one attempt at an argument to prove that the Face is natural – one instrument purportedly shows that the 3-D features of the Face are illusions, not reality. David Sinclair has provided a well-reasoned response to this JPL/MSSS experiment-based argument. [11] He shows that a real, well-known scientist’s face, subjected to the identical experiment measured with equivalent horizontal and vertical resolution, cannot be recognized as face-like or 3-D because the horizontal resolution is too broad and renders the very precise vertical resolution useless for seeing features as small as those on faces. Even more relevant is data from orthorectification of the Cydonia Face using images taken at two different viewing angles. These allow triangulation of height differences, and prove that the Face really is 3-D in its main features. So Garvin’s attempt at a scientific argument is falsified because it depends upon a wrong methodology.

Finally, here is a quote from Yahoo News, 2001 May 24:

“Michael Malin, principal investigator of the Global Surveyor camera, said the new images show the area to be nothing more than a hill. ‘I have no desire to discuss it with the true believers. They can't be convinced, they don't want to be convinced,’ Malin said.”

This is disingenuous in that it implies a new position based on the new evidence, whereas Malin has refused to discuss this subject with qualified scientists open to artificiality, such as SPSR’s 30-person team, for many years now. The statement is ad hominem in that it implies that anyone who disagrees with him must be a fanatic and could not possibly have a reasonable scientific basis for a different conclusion. In connection with the 1998 MGS Face image, speaking as head of MSSS, Malin said that obtaining more Face images “was a slap at the integrity of the scientists involved and a waste of public funds”. It is highly inappropriate to make hasty public pronouncements about conclusions drawn from images when there is no stated or obvious scientific basis for such conclusions, and when the conclusions have not undergone peer review.

I conclude from these and similar remarks, presented in press releases and spread over wire services, that a campaign exists to preempt fair analysis and consideration of the new Cydonia Face image. The campaign asserts, in effect, that anyone finding evidence supporting artificiality now is merely acting out of bias, prior belief, or face-saving motives. Making such statements is a betrayal of public responsibility. Similar abuse occurred on 1998 April 6, when the JPL Public Information Office released a version of the first high-resolution image of the Cydonia Face on Mars that had been run through a high-pass filter (which suppresses image details), a low-pass filter (introducing further deviation from the actual appearance of the Martian terrain), and then averaging these two distorted views. This procedure is documented on a JPL web site along with the actual image received from the spacecraft and the one released to the media.

The 2001 image and the 1998 released one bear strikingly little resemblance to one another. [12] Following that release, it took a week for independent scientists to discover the orientation and lighting problems with the real image, a month to get a decent analysis from the raw data, and two years to render the image properly. In the meantime, JPL’s successful creation of the impression that the Face was “just a pile of rocks” spread around the world. Many good and sincere people were taken in by this deception. But note the careful avoidance of comparisons with their own 1998 media-release image in the current commentary from JPL and MSSS. We present the two images for just such a comparison in Figure 12. Whatever the image on the left contained, whether natural or artificial, anyone would be hard-pressed to see it in the image on the right.

     Figure 12

Figure 12. Comparison of 2001 Face image and 1998 JPL-filtered-averaged Face image.

Such damage is long lasting. The major journals of science most appropriate for peer-reviewed publications on this subject have placed it on a list of topics that are rejected at the door without peer review. The journals, the other media, and the public expected that they could trust in the integrity of the image they were shown, the conclusions drawn, and the scientists and institutions responsible for them. Now these innocent individuals have taken on a bias because of their misplaced trust, and as a result may no longer welcome news that quite the opposite conclusion can justifiably be drawn. These biases persist despite the obvious high value of getting this call right.

Why are these individuals and agencies behaving in blatantly anti-scientific ways? Possibly the single largest problem in science today is that Scientific Method is no longer regularly taught in schools, so many scientists do not know its rules. Beyond that, we have no way to be certain of motives, but some financial interests are apparent. Any result that creates public support for manned space missions is apparently perceived as not in JPL's long-term financial interests because that agency and its contractor MSSS get funds, personnel, control, and media exposure only for robotic space missions, but not for manned missions. [13] In the case of the only space target that has thus far switched from robotic missions to manned missions, our Moon, since it became the subject of manned missions, JPL has not been assigned any further robotic missions there in over 30 years. This has remained the case even though manned missions were suspended in the mid-1970s.

It cannot escape notice at JPL/MSSS that recognition that there are artificial structures on Mars will impel on-site exploration by geologists, anthropologists, and other scientists. This would mean another replacement of robotic missions by manned missions. Is the drive to protect turf compromising scientific integrity? Whatever the motives, the anti-scientific behavior of scientists and agencies is at the expense of the advancement of science, and is unconscionable.


The single, most important element in an analysis of a major, controversial topic such as artificiality on Mars is faithfulness to scientific method, in particular its dictum to remove the bias of the experimentalists from the results presented. We have done that as far as possible by testing only a priori predictions of both the natural-origin and artificial-origin hypotheses, and placing minimal weight in evaluating these hypotheses with impressions given by a posteriori elements such as visual appearance.

The analysis presented here shows the presence of an east side “eye socket”, “iris”, “eyebrow”, and “mouth/lips” features having the correct location, size, and orientation and near-perfect mirror symmetry of these attributes with corresponding west-side features previously reported. This is consistent with the artificiality already established for the west side of the Face; and the mirror symmetry is contrary to ad hoc speculations elsewhere about the east side portraying some sort or animal face or other deliberate asymmetry.

By contrast with the west side features, however, the east side features (other than the “eyebrow”) do not have quite the expected shapes. This is apparently caused by an impact event that melted artificial materials used in construction of the Face mesa. Subsequent flow before cooling and solidification partially filled in the lower “eye” and “mouth” features, with the impact event itself mildly displacing the latter. Once the “melt” feature is recognized to exist and its consequent alterations taken into consideration, the shape deviations for east side facial features are all readily explained.

The anti-scientific conduct of a few individual scientists, supported by their agencies, has had a chilling effect on open discussion and debate about artificiality of features seen in Mars imagery, of closing the mainstream journals to the topic without the possibility of a peer review, and of making institutional support or funding for further research almost impossible. Consequently, only organizations such as SPSR and Meta Research, able to operate without NASA funding, have any possibility of bringing this story to the attention of the wider scientific community and the public. The creation of a biased atmosphere via “sound-byte science” sets back the natural progress of science, and I therefore would expect it to be censured by everyone interested in science and truth, regardless of the merit of the arguments about artificiality of the Face presented herein.

I do not want to end this paper with my accusation of scientific misconduct. I am a mainstream scientist, and indeed I know how painful it can be to discard deeply held positions, even when the evidence consistently and thoroughly shows them to be wrong. However, science is the process of proving deeply held positions to be wrong. I urge the scientists at NASA, JPL, and MSSS to re-image specific features showing suspected artifacts while the opportunity still exists, and in particular to acquire high-resolution imagery of as many other Cydonia mesas as possible, because in that region they all seem to show signs of artificiality. Collecting new non-redundant data for the testing of important hypotheses will surely be applauded by everyone concerned, as will strict adherence to the rules of scientific conduct. Learning the truth about Mars is more important to the people we serve than continued funding for any of us.


I would like to thank Meta Research Directors Tim Seward, Michael Van Flandern (also a webmaster), and Peter Espenschied, Patron Member John Bailey, and co-webmaster Kevin Van Flandern for invaluable suggestions to improve this paper.


[1] "New Evidence of Artificiality at Cydonia on Mars", MRB 6, 1-15 (1997).
[2] "Best Evidence Yet for Planetary Artifacts", MRB 7, 22-30 (1998).
[3] "Proof that the Cydonia Face on Mars is Artificial", MRB 9, 22-27 (2000).
[4] "The ‘Fortress’ and ‘Tholus’ at Cydonia", MRB 9, 27-31 (2000).
[5] "The Meaning of Cydonia", MRB 9, 33-42 (2000).
[6] "Addendum: ‘Proof that the Cydonia Face on Mars is Artificial’", MRB 9, 44-45 (2000).
[7] "Artificial Structures on Mars", MRB 10, 1-15 (2001).
[8] Van Flandern, T., Carlotto, M., Crater, H., Erjavec, J., Fleming, L., & Levasseur, J.P., "Evidence for Planetary Artifacts", preprint available from authors (1999; revised 2000, 2001).

1991-2016 Meta Research. All rights reserved
Back To Top      Contact Meta Research      Privacy Policy