13 Apr 2012

Did the NASA HiRISE camera photograph an alien monolith or simply a rock?  (Credit:  NASA/HiRISE)
Did the NASA HiRISE camera photograph an alien monolith or simply a rock? (Credit: NASA/HiRISE)

An interesting object, found by amateurs, has been spotted sticking out of the surface of Mars.  In the image the object appears perfectly rectangular and upright.  It can be found in NASA images of Mars and looks strikingly similar to the monoliths placed by aliens in the classic Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C. Clarke film "2001:  A Space Odyssey."  (Queue the music)

The object was photographed several years ago by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter but has made for fun commentary on the Internet recently.  

One person who analyzes images from Mars missions, Jonathon Hill, a research technician and mission planner at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University says its just a rectangular boulder.

The camera that took the picture has a resolution of 1 foot (30 centimeters) per pixel, which is actually impressive when you consider that the spacecraft takes pictures from 180 miles (300 kilometers) in altitude, though not sharp enough to capture the full detail of this boulder.  Hill mentions that if you have too low of a resolution, objects tend to be rectangular because the pixels are themselves squares.

The Monolith in 2001:  A Space Odyssey (Credit: MGM via YouTube)
The Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey (Credit: MGM via YouTube)

The positioning of the "monolith" object surrounded by other boulders seems to suggest it broke off and rolled to its location in the past according to Hill.  Hill elaborates that if aliens were to place an object such as this why would they put it near a bunch of debris, hiding its location.  Hill also says the height of the boulder is exaggerated due to the low sun angle.

The Tech-Stew Take Home

Unfortunately due to the low resolution of the object in the image, this "monolith" is most likely just a trick on the eyes.  It is fascinating to look at and imagine other possibilities, however.  Although, who's to say that if aliens did place a structure like this on Mars, that other debris may have actually slowly surrounded it over the years, either by localized events or meteors smashing into the surrounding area.  Perhaps someday, hopefully in the near future, humans will investigate such features and find alien relics, but most likely we will just found rocks, the simplest answer usually prevails. 

Source:  space.com


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