The Most Mysterious Anomalies of Mars

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Suspended Objects

Pictures of suspended objects on Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL

Do they indicate the presence of current life forms and a past civilization?

SINCE ANCIENT MAN began tracking the unique red world across the night sky, we have always known there is something special about Mars. Although it is much smaller than Earth, Mars is the most Earth-like planet in our solar system, bearing many similar geological features, including polar ice caps and what appear to be ancient (but now dry) river beds. But is there life on Mars? Despite the controversy surrounding Mars meteorites that some scientists think contain fossils of ancient Martian bacteria-like life forms, there is no conclusive evidence that life currently or ever existed on Mars.

That, however, does not mean that life wasn't - or isn't - present. Although there is no conclusive evidence for life on Mars, there are some tantalizing photos sent back from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) and other probes that might show Martian life forms, and other photos that could depict evidence of intelligent life!

This picture taken by the Mars rover shows two relatively thin objects that cast a definite shadow on the ground, making them look like they are suspended or floating.

The one on the left has been called "the spoon" because of the spoon-like shape on the end, and the other has been dubbed "the hoverboard" for its slight resemblance to the hoverboard featured in the Back to the Future films.

NASA of course has dismissed the objects in the image as nothing more than pareidolia -- a trick of light and shadow. The agency says it is just a "weird rock" -- a ventifact -- a rock shaped over time by wind. Weird, indeed. I'd be interested in seeing a similar rock formation on Earth.

Although I do not think the objects are a spoon and hoverboard, I think they are interesting enough to warrant further investigation and a closer look. But NASA is curiously un-curious about such anomalies.

Because the objects cast shadows on the ground, they seem to be suspended in some way. I don't think they are floating or otherwise defying gravity, rather it appears to me as if they are sticking out of the rock. In fact, the two objects are somewhat aligned, indicating that they might be two ends of one object (or were at one time).

But what?

It does not look like something that is naturally occurring. Could it be artificial? Could it be further evidence of a past civilization or intelligent presence on Mars? Or could it possibly be a fossil of some kind? (See more photos.)

NASA: Give us a closer look!

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Martian Trees and Shrubs

Evidence of living vegetation on Mars?. NASA

This photo, taken by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) look quite like aerial photos of an Earth desert dotted with shrub growth. But these sand dunes are in the southern hemisphere of Mars. A Hungarian research team, which has been analyzing the photos (and other photos of the same area over time), has concluded that the black dots are indeed living organisms.

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Mars Trees and Shrubs

Evidence for vegetative life on Mars?. NASA

"Each spring," writes David Leonard in an article for, "[the Hungarians] report, 'gray fuzzy spots' appear in the bottom of the ice cover. By the middle of the first half of spring, these spots become darker, are bounded, and grow in size. By early summer defrosting, the naked dark soil of the dune is visible, and surrounded by a lighter ring. Year by year, the dark dune spots 'renew' on the same place with almost the same configuration, or 'constellation' of patches. This repeat action, the team asserts, strengthens their suggestion of fixed, biological causes of spot formation."

The Hungarian scientists conclude that this strongly suggests the life cycle of some kind of plant life.

NASA and its associated research teams don't agree with this conclusion. Their theory is that the dark spots are "the result of springtime defrosting process on Mars, not signs of biology." A somewhat less dismissive opinion from Bruce Jakosky, a Mars researcher at the University of Colorado in Boulder, states that the conclusion for Martian biology is "premature... when other, simpler processes have not been ruled out."

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Mars Trees

Banyan trees?. NASA

Another controversial photo, shown here, reveals much larger forms that look like spreading trees as seen from above. No less a personage than respected author Arthur C. Clarke opined that they resemble Earth's Banyan trees. He too noted that these forms appear to change with the seasons, growing with the warmth and increased sunlight of Mars's spring season, just as vegetation would. But NASA has likewise explained these shapes as some kind of freezing/defrosting phenomenon or a part of the "bizarre geology" of Mars.

Both theories are just that, however - theories. NASA doesn't know any better than the Hungarians what these changing forms on the Martian surface really are. The only way to find out for certain is to direct one of our upcoming Martian rovers to the area and photograph them. It seems it would certainly be worth the effort to find out conclusively.

And while they're at it, perhaps they could send another probe to examine some perplexing Martian features that look as though they were built by intelligent creatures. See those on the following pages.

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Glass Tubes

What are these glassy-looking forms?. NASA

There are interesting photos that show structures that do not look natural and have led some researchers to raise the possibility that they might be artificial.

One of the most fascinating images, pictured at right, shows a ribbed tube or tunnel-like structure. Partially covered by the surface terrain, the structure looks as through it has been unearthed (unmarsed?) by some geologic process. The structure resembles the so-called "glass worms" discovered in other photos, although this one lacks the "transparent" or "translucent" quality of the worms.

The official NASA stance on these structures is that they are quite natural and are, in fact, "dune trains" - rows of sand dunes. The article "Is This an Artificial Construct on Mars" compares this photo with another photo of actual Martian dune trains. They don't look anything alike. While the photo of "actual" dunes indeed look like sand dunes, this enigmatic structure does not.

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Glass Tubes on Mars

What is the purpose of these tubes?. NASA

These are, without a doubt, the most fascinating objects yet photographed on the surface of Mars. They look like long translucent tubes supported by rows of bright arches. "A lot of people have seen these strange structures and have tried to speculate as to what they might be," says Jeffrey McCann at The Research Abyss. "Some would say these are huge water ducts funneling water from one area to another, others are firm in thinking that these are some sort of natural geological anomaly only occurring on Mars."

McCann and Joseph P. Skipper, both researchers into Martian anomalies, call this image "the real smoking gun as to life on Mars." The image was discovered in June, 2000 among the many images posted at Malin Space Science Systems, which has tens of thousands of Mars pictures available for online viewing and examination.

"These structures are actually in excellent condition," says Skipper in an article titled Dissecting The Mars 'Tubes' Anomaly, "where other antiquity anomalies on Mars are heavily eroded, allowing endless debate as to what they truly are, natural or constructs. Note their general uniformity and the uniform spacing of the bands or ridges. Note how one structure here clearly attaches to another and note the shiny round terminating end at the junction point clearly defining it as a constructed hard object as opposed to a natural geological formation of some kind. Note how at least one or more bands/ridges span around both structures tying them together at the junction point clearly demonstrating construction technique. Note the apparent translucent composition of these structures and how entirely alien they clearly are to the geology and topography they are embedded in. There can be no question that these are constructs of some kind. But, made by what or who and for what purpose?"

At Richard Hoagland's Enterprise Mission, Sir Arthur C. Clarke (author of 2001: A Space Odyssey) is quoted as remarking about the tubes: "I'm still waiting for an explanation of that extraordinary glass worm on... [Mars]... How big is it? It's one of the most incredible images that's ever come from space and there have been no [official] comments on it whatsoever!"

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Mars Port

A port for what?. NASA

This intriguing photos is the so-called "port," which has been examined in some detail at Mars Unearthed (no longer online).

This highly geometric structure, appearing on a Martian cliffside, looks like an artificially constructed two-story building of some unknown purpose. In the opinion of the article, "the first floor walls of [the port] are facing camera and in shadow. The second floor is a well-defined square and is turned at a precise 45-degree angle to the first floor. Centered in the midst of the roof of that squared second floor is an abrupt, sharp circle... a 'landing pad' as for helicopters atop tall buildings and on decks of ships."

Near this structure, the article continues, is a large, open, U-shaped culvert or conduit out of which is flowing a great deal of liquid.

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Mars Tower

Mars Tower
Mars Tower. NASA

"The Tower" seems to show a tall tower or stack with a white tip casting a long shadow. If it is indeed a tower of some kind, it stands at an incredible 6.3 kilometers high - 12 times taller than the largest skyscraper on Earth.

Could these "structures" be optical illusions of natural geological formations? Of course. But to dismiss them outright as not possibly being artificial in origin is just as unscientific as declaring that they absolutely are created by intelligent beings. The suggestion that they are artificial is such a large claim, however, that these images should be examined carefully and with skepticism - but with an open mind. These images of seemingly artificial structures could dissolve into natural formations with more detailed, higher resolution photographs - just as, by most examinations, the so-called "Face on Mars" has resolved into a large mesa.

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Valley of the Boulders

Where did these boulders come from?. NASA

On February 14, 2001, an international group of nine 10- 15-year-old boys and girls were invited by NASA to direct the camera aboard the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS). When these kids took the controls of the camera, they picked up an image of an anomaly that has scientists puzzled. This picture shows a scattering of large, dark boulders in the middle of a relatively flat, light-colored plain. The puzzle is: Where did they come from? There are no mountains or large hills that the boulders could have broken off from. And their color is in sharp contrast to anything in the surrounding area.

"It's puzzling," said Michael Carr of the US Geological Survey. "I looked at a few pictures around [the area] and couldn't find anything to explain it. Very puzzling! These are huge boulders. There are no indications of any outcrops that could shed such boulders."

How huge are they? It is estimated that they are between 50 and 80 feet in diameter! Those are big rocks! "Wow! These have me totally stumped," commented Ron Greeley of Arizona State University. "Not only is the dark color of the boulders a surprise, but they appear totally out of context in the surrounding terrain. There is nothing in the rest of the image to suggest a source for such large boulders, nor their arrangement on the surface."

One proposed theory is that the boulders are the remains of a meteor that shattered on impact. Yet there is no impact crater; the meteor would have had to have been moving quite slowly to make no crater and keep its fragments in such a close grouping. The meteor theory is highly unlikely. Planetary scientists have yet to come up with a plausible, satisfactory explanation for the boulders.

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Giza and Martian Pyramids

Giza and Martian Pyramids. NASA

The Cydonia region of Mars seems to be chock full of weird anomalous structures. Southwest of the infamous "face" is a group of features that have been called "pyramids" (above right). With their relatively smooth, triangular sides, they bear a striking resemblance from the air to the pyramids at Giza, Egypt (above left).

One of the most closely studied is the so-called D&M pyramid. According to researcher Mark Carlotto, "the three illuminated faces of the D&M appear to be relatively flat with well defined edges in between. Buttress like structures at the base of several edges are also evident. In the MGS image the edge between the northeast and northwest faces resembles a spine running from the apex of the D&M down to the ground. At the base of the spine lies a circular depression, possibly an opening. A dark feature seems to emanate northward from this depression or opening, which then leads into a sinuous channel off to the right."

Carlotto also has examined "the City Pyramid," a five-sided structure whose spines "resemble the five pointed Egyptian symbol for a star." In the most high-resolution photos of these structures taken by MGS, the pyramids look somewhat less pyramid-like, but their geometric shapes are still intriguing.

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Star City on Mars

Artificial structure or natural formation?. NASA

The curious formation seen here has been dubbed the Star City. It's a complex structure that some researchers say shows walls of artificial construction.

The structure is located on the Syrtis Major Planum area and is part of a large area of strange patterns, geometric objects and other curiosities that look for all the world like tubes and tunnels.

According to Star City - A Second Cydonia?, the structures most likely have a natural origin: "Large domes and tubes, volcanic in origin, cover the landscape, and several of the domes have partially collapsed, creating interesting structures. In many cases the uncollapsed parts are probably partially hollow and may provide a shelter from the extreme Martian environment."

Indeed, just because a feature looks artificial doesn't mean that it is. We are only beginning to understand Mars' climate, geology and processes. It is still hotly debated whether or not Mars ever had flowing water - and perhaps still does. Yet there are some features of this strange planet that are truly mystifying....

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Mars Riverbed

Does this photo show freestanding or flowing water on Mars?. NASA

Scientists say it is highly unlikely that there is any freestanding or flowing water on Mars, and almost certainly no life. So we'd like to get a good explanation for this photo taken by the Mars Express orbiter. In stark contrast to the surrounding familiar rust-red rock of the planet is this ribbon of blue-green "something" in a canyon. If we were to see such a feature in an aerial photo of the Earth, we would quickly assume that it is a body of water.

A number of questions arise: Are the colors accurate? The US orbiters have not shown such colors in any of their photos. If the colors are accurate, what accounts for them? Lifeless mineral deposits? Or do they reveal the existence of water... or, more remarkably, a kind of Martian blue-green algae or lichen?

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Golf Ball Crater on Mars

Weird crater or domed structure?. NASA

Here is one of the most peculiar craters on Mars. Taken by the Mars Global Surveyor, the photo clearly shows an ordinary-looking crater with something extraordinary-looking inside it. Off-center is a dome-like structure, nearly perfectly spherical, that appears to have a golf ball-like texture... or that of a Buckminster Fuller geodesic construction.

More intriguing, this dome stands very near what looks like a system of tunnels or conduits that run above and below the Martian surface. Small tunnels seem to connect to large tunnels, like some kind of enormous drainage system. (There is a similar crater and dome in this photo.)

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Monolith on Mars

Who erected this monolith?. NASA

This photo of a mysterious object on the surface of Mars was snapped by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from 165 miles up. It appears to show a free-standing geometric block of undetermined height. It immediately brings to mind, of course, the alien-created monolith from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. But is this object artificial?

A scientist from the University of Arizona is quoted as saying, "In reality it's more likely that this boulder has been created by breaking away from the bedrock to create a rectangular-shaped feature." If so, where is the bedrock from which it has been broken? Where is the stone that fractured off to create this shape? The object seems to be standing quite on its own on a plain of soil. We cannot say it is an artificial creation, of course, but we can add it to the growing list of peculiar Martian anomalies. Read more here.

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Phobos Monolith

The "monolith" on Phobos. NASA

"We should go boldly where man has not gone before – fly by the comets, visit asteroids, visit the moon of Mars. There’s a monolith there. A very unusual structure on this little potato shaped object that goes around Mars once in seven hours. When people find out about that, they're going to say 'Who put that there?' Well, the universe put it there. If you choose, God put it there."

Those are the words of Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, during a program commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing. And this is the monolith he's talking about. The explanatory call-outs on the photo above were made by Efrain Palermo in his analysis of the object.

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Mars Cricket

Mars cricket
Mars cricket. NASA, submitted by Rob Clay; animation by Stephen Wagner

"I have recently taken an interest in the anomalies and such like from the Mars Rover photos," says Rob Clay. "I decided to play a game of "spot the difference" with photos taken at the same location, my theory being simple: if something was present in one photo and not in another taken at the same location [at around the same time], then it must have 'moved'.

"I have found something very interesting and shows that there is life on Mars; not a big creature by any means, but it does appear to have legs and look like an insect. I have called it a 'cricket'.

"In this photo, in the lower right-hand quarter, is a small area of sand, and perched on this is my 'cricket'. In this photo the cricket is missing!

"At first I thought that the upright pipe might be obscuring it, but if you relate [the 'cricket's'] position to the rock above it (shaped a bit like the Star Trek emblem), it is definitely missing, therefore it has moved. See the raw photos here.

"Can we name the cricket Robert after me, please?"

Rob, if we could prove it was a cricket and I was in charge of naming such things, I would certainly name it after you. So what do you think, readers? Has Rob spotted a critter on Mars? Other possibilities include something light (and not alive) that was blown away by the wind before the second picture was taken. Or the dark spot could be a photographic flaw or speck of dust on the camera lens. Then again, perhaps it is Marscricketitus Robertus. -- S.W.

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Mars Seashell

Mars Seashell
Is this a seashell on Mars?. NASA

Sir Charles W. Shults III, in his A Fossil Hunter's Guide to Mars, has unearthed (unmarsed?) several photos taken by the Spirit rover of objects on the surface of Mars that look very much like terrestrial seashells. One of them is shown here compared to an Earth seashell (inset). It appears to have a thin structure and a spiraling shape. If they are rocks, they are mighty peculiar rocks. You can see more here.

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Mars BioStation Alpha

Mars BioStation Alpha
Is this a building on Mars?. NASA/Google Mars

According to this video, David Martines was looking around Google Mars when he happened to find a large building-like structure in the northern hemisphere of the planet. He calls it "Bio-Station Alpha," which of course is not its real name, but he assumes someone or something is living in it. Martines estimates that the white structure is over 700 feet long and 150 feet wide. It can be found at the following coordinates on Google Mars: 71 49'19.73"N 29 33'06.53"W

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Mars Turtle

Mars turtle
Mars turtle. NASA / JPL

This one looks like a Martian turtle or similar creature. (Remember, I'm not claiming that's what it is at all. But it is curious looking.)

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Mars Binder

Mars Binder
Mars Binder. NASA / JPL

Did some ancient Martian drop his binder? That's kind of what this very peculiar anomaly looks like.

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Mars Oval Structure

Mars Oval Structure

These could be just weird rocks, of course, but their strange shapes make them look like they have been manufactured. They look like parts of something man-made... or Martian-made. There are other strange shapes in this picture, too.

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Martian "Finger"

Martian Finger
Martian Finger. NASA

This picture, taken by the Curiosity rover on Mars, shows an object that very much looks like a human finger, complete with fingernail.

Obviously, we're only seeing one side of the object, so we cannot tell if it still looks like a finger from all sides. Some have suggested that it's a fossilized finger from a Martian or a broken-off finger from a Martian statue.

Or is it just an odd rock that from this vantage point happens to look like a finger?

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"Rodent" on Mars picture

"Rodent" on Mars picture. NASA

This curiosity snapped by one of the cameras of the Curiosity rover on the surface of the planet Mars has been dubbed the Mars rodent. From this vantage point -- the only one we're offered by the rover -- it does resemble a guinea pig as you'd find in any Earthly pet store.

Is it likely that this really is some form of Martian rodent? If so, on what is it dining, since there appears to be no vegetation to provide food? Yet, the little fellow looks quite healthy. I suppose we could imagine that there is some form of food underground, which the animal discovers in its burrows.

Or is it more likely that this is an optical illusion, a rock whose shape fools us into seeing a furry little critter with a nose, eye, and possibly a front foot?

What do you think?

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Mars shiny metal object

Mars shiny metal object
Mars shiny metal object. NASA

Here is another strange, anomalous object photographed on the surface of Mars by the Curiosity rover. The picture was taken on Earth date January 30, 2013 and presents a real mystery. The shiny protuberance is small -- about .05 cm tall or smaller -- and appears to be embedded in the rock from which it juts. So it is certainly not from the rover itself. Its shininess implies that it is of metallic composition. So these are the possibilities:

  • It is a naturally formed nugget of metal. Surely, metals must have formed on Mars in the same way they have formed on Earth during its creation and evolution. The rock, being worn away by wind and sandstorms, exposed this more durable vein of metal.
  • It is an artificial, manufactured, probably ancient metal object of unknown origin and purpose that became embedded in the strata of Mars soil, which turned to rock, and the object was revealed again by natural forces of wind and erosion.

So which is it? Certainly, we have to admit that the former is more likely, although the latter is far more fun to contemplate.

What's more mysterious, perhaps, is NASA's indifference to such objects. They don't seem interested at all. As far as I know, possible metal veins of this kind have not been found on Mars. I would think this is an object -- whether natural or artificial -- worth investigation and analysis by Curiosity's many on-board tools. Don't you?

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Bridge on Mars

Bridge on Mars
A bridge on Mars?. NASA / JPL

These are blow-ups and enhancements of a picture taken by one of the Mars rovers. In the background there is a formation that looks like an elevated roadway or bridge. The color has been added to show it more clearly.

Is it just an optical illusion of stratified layers in the hillside... or is this evidence of a past Martian civilization? What do you think?

Here is the original NASA / JPL picture.

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Mars Thigh Bone

Mars Thigh Bone
Mars Thigh Bone. NASA

The latest curiosity from the planet Mars, photographed by the Curiosity rover on August 14, 2014, is an object that very much looks like a bone of some kind. Some observers have likened it to a thigh bone.

There shouldn't be bones of any kind on Mars, according to planetary scientists, since life -- not even in microbial form -- has never been detected there. And certainly no evidence for large forms of life has ever been confirmed. Or is this artifact the evidence?

Or is it just an oddly shaped rock that resembles a bone? Its coloration, proportions, and shape, complete with joint-like nodules on the ends immediately makes one think of a limb bone. Without further examination, however, a conclusion cannot be drawn, and we don't know if NASA is planning for Curiosity to take a closer look.

Probably not. "If life ever existed on Mars, scientists expect that it would be small simple life forms called microbes," NASA stated in a press release. "Mars likely never had enough oxygen in its atmosphere and elsewhere to support more complex organisms. Thus, large fossils are not likely."

While some amateur observers say that it is very likely the bone of an alien Martian animal, other suggest the resemblance to a bone is mere pareidolia -- the tendency for the human brain to find familiar shapes in random formations.

What do you think?

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Martian Totem Pole

Martian Totem Pole
Okay, maybe it's not a totem pole, but what is it?. NASA

Okay, it's probably not a Martian totem pole, but what the heck is that thing? Does it look like a natural formation to you? Is there natural formation comparable to it on Earth?

And in case you thought this was a doctored photo, here's the original NASA raw image.

It appears to be a pole-shaped object with roundish objects on it that look like they have carvings on them. And the whole thing is standing in a very smooth section of ground, like it was deliberately planted there.

A video on YouTube, from attempting to analyze what it calls a "hand-crafted object" also takes a look at some of the surrounding debris and suggests that it might be pieces broken off of the object.

So what do you think? A highly unusual rock formation? Or something else? Either way, Mars is one weird place.

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Mars Vacuum Cleaner Attachment

Looks like vacuum cleaner attachment. NASA

Here's another puzzler from the surface of Mars snapped by one of the rovers. Doesn't it look like a vacuum cleaner attachment? Of course that's not what it is... but then, what is it. It's odd shape and round hole in the end (as if for a tube fitting) makes it look like a manufactured object.

Yes, it could be a natural object that we're just not viewing correctly, but it is highly unusual.

Is it an artifact from some ancient Martian civilization? Or could it indeed be a man-made object, discarded from the rover itself?

Here's the original photo from NASA.

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Statue Head

Does it look like Barack Obama to you?. NASA

Yes, we can clearly see the eyes, nose, mouth, hairline -- all if very good proportion and position to the human head. So is this the head of a statue from some ancient Martian culture? Or is this another case of pareidolia -- finding a familiar pattern in an ordinary rock?

Some have even claimed that the face bears a striking resemblance to President Barack Obama! If so, he got there a-head of all of us!

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Moving Lights

Something surveying Mars?. NASA

Are Earthlings the only ones surveying the surface of Mars?

Check out this video from Paranormal Crucible, from NASA rover images, that seems to show lights moving around above the surface of Mars, as if surveying or looking for something.

"Lights" have been seen in Mars images before, but they have been explained by NASA as cosmic rays striking the photo sensor. But how do we account for lights that seem to move about?

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Did Martians once go to the sea in ships?. NASA

Those who pore over the images returned from the Martian rovers have pointed out this anomaly, saying that it looks like the remains of a boat. Mars is thought have had surface water -- possibly even lakes and oceans -- in the distant past, so is this a Martian ship?

I has the rough outline of a boat, like an Earth row boat or canoe, complete with the cross struts. Or is this another case of seeing something familiar in random formations?

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Mars Sphinx


We're all familiar with the enigmatic Sphinx in Giza desert of Egypt, but some paranormal researchers are saying that this photo shows a Sphinx-like statue on the desert-like surface of the planet Mars.

As you can see, it's not a very clear photo as the object -- whatever it is -- is some great distance from the rover's camera. So although we can see a vague resemblance to Earth's Sphinx, we cannot tell if it is just a hill or mountain... which it probably is.

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Alien Weapon

What could it have been shooting at?. NASA

Here's another weird-looking thing on Mars that some observers have likened to a weapon of some kind -- like a tank or anti-aircraft gun. We see the resemblance: it appears to have a body and a gun-like barrel pointing upward.

It's hard to say what that really is without a closer look.

But what could those Martians have been aiming at?