Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Pyramid on Mars?

Dear Madame L,

I saw a picture online that is supposedly a pyramid photographed by the Mars rover Curiosity. So I'm curious myself: Could it really be a pyramid, and, if it is, does that mean there is or once was life on Mars?


Like I Said, Curious

Dear Curious,

You're welcome for not calling you a moron, which some rational people have called anyone who believes the rover might have caught a glimpse of a pyramid on Mars.

Photo snapped by NASA's Curiosity rover on May 7, 2015 purports to show a car-sized pyramid on Mars. Curiosity was launched into space on Nov. 26, 2011 and landed on Mars on Aug. 6, 2012.
From the Huffington Post's reporting on the rock (rock, not pyramid!):
"It is a rock," Dr. Jim Bell, deputy principal investigator of the Mastcam investigation program and a professor of astronomy at Arizona State University in Tempe, told The Huffington Post in an email. "It is probably a volcanic rock (like most rocks that we've seen with rovers on Mars), and just like many volcanic rocks on the Earth, many volcanic rocks on Mars break and cleave in very sharp, angular ways. This one happens to have cleaved into a pyramidal shape, which is actually not too uncommon among hard, dense volcanic rocks on the Earth either."

As for the size of the rock, Bell said an analysis by the Mastcam team suggests that it's only about four inches tall, or the height of an 8-ounce soda can. 
 And here's the Snopes response to the question about pyramid(s) on Mars, concluding, "...for now we’d have to classify this “pyramid” photograph as another example of pareidolia..."

And what is pareidolia?  Madame L will define this Weird Word of the Week next week.

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