by Ananda  Sirisena

[All images courtesy of NASA/MSSS]

On 24 May 2001, when NASA released an overhead view of the Face on Mars, it also released some data from MOLA (Mars Observer Laser Altimeter) of the corresponding region in Cydonia. This report compares the two images, one made by optical camera and the other of relief data from MOLA laser altimeter readings.

Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) placed, on its web pages, a small image comparing the 1976 Viking Face from frame 70A13 with the latest MGS 2001 representation ( Figure 1).

Viking 1976 MGS 2001
(Optical camera)
The 1976 Viking image had a resolution of approximately 50 metres per pixel. The MGS image is of much higher resolution; the exact number of metres per pixel is not yet known. Clearly, the two images were not taken at the same time of day, although both are somewhat from overhead. Until MSSS (Malin Space Science Systems) releases full ancillary data regarding date and time of acquisition of the MGS picture, we can only guess as to time and angle of camera and the incident angle of lighting from the Sun. Nevertheless, the MGS image clearly matches the overall shape and details of the lower resolution picture from 1976.

The ‘eastern’ side of the Face (right side from our point of view) appears to have a fracture going almost three-quarters of the way down. This was not so apparent in 1976, as the eastern side was in shadow then.

At the same time as the 2001 MGS image was released, NASA released a MOLA (Mars Observer Laser Altimeter) view of the Face in Cydonia (see figure 2). Most unfortunately, the MOLA image was presented in an ‘upside-down’ manner, which may be confusing to observers.  When this image is rotated back to familiar orientation, one sees a clear view of the same fracture lines, the same ‘platform’ or ‘berm’ (to use a geological expression) and the same characteristics of facial features (see Figure 3). However, the image also needs to be skewed and de-stretched in order fully to reveal its correct overall shape (see Figure 4).

The MOLA data substantiate the general characteristics of the optical view of the Face in Cydonia and therefore must be regarded as confirmation of the various elements of symmetry and facial features that have led planetary SETI investigators to postulate that it may be an ancient, eroded, but deliberately sculpted landform on Mars, evidence of activity by some intelligent beings


As shown on the NASA web site.

Turned upside down for usual orientation.

Figure 3 shows Figure 2 rotated through 180 degrees. This MOLA image is clearly of very high resolution; as NASA’s caption indicates,  the laser altimeter data have a resolution of 1.5 m per pixel, many times better than the 1976 Viking images.

Figure 4 shows the MOLA image rotated (or skewed)to approximate an “overhead” view by the laser altimeter. This cannot be done very accurately, as at the time of writing, complete data on the MOLA images are not available.

To now compare the MOLA high-resolution laser altimeter image with the high-resolution MGS MOC (Mars Observer Camera) leads to the conclusion that they supplement each other and also clearly show that the east and west sides of the Face are not identical. If both images are split down the middle and mirrored, the western half shows a resemblance to a “hominid/simian” face portrayal. The eastern half mirrored shows a “feline/bird” appearance.


Figure 5 shows the high resolution optical image taken by the MGS camera and released by NASA in May 2001.
It has been reduced in size here as the original image is very large and would not fit on a single page in its entirety if shown in full resolution.


Image number: E03 –

00824, probably taken by the MGS camera in April 2001. It is a magnificent overhead view of the Face on Mars and is the sort of data that should have arrived instead of the ‘catbox’ issued in April 1998.

Both the MOLA and MGS images also clearly show that the east and west sides of the Face are not identical. The variance between the east and west portions, with the resulting lack of symmetry, has raised questions by researchers as to the legitimacy of claims that the object may be artificial. However a simple test has a remarkable result. If both images are split down the middle and mirrored, the western half shows a resemblance to a hominid/simian face portrayal. The eastern half mirrored shows a feline/bird appearance. The reason for the test by this writer is to remain open to the suggestion made by Richard Hoagland many years ago that the Face on Mars represented a dichotomy – a “man/lion” or “hominid/feline” fused into a single image, not unlike terrestrial artwork of many centuries ago.

Figure 6 shows the west side of the Face from the 2001 MGS image, mirrored with itself. The simian/hominid resemblance is very striking. Compare this with Figure 7 which shows the same half (west) of the Face from the MOLA image. The simian resemblance in this laser altimeter-derived picture is even more striking. Readers are requested to make their own judgement on this visual spectacle.


Figure 6: MGS west half mirrored.
Figure 7: MOLA west half mirrored.
Mirroring halves of the images also highlights many of the details captured by both of these high resolution pictures, even though they were taken by very different technologies. There are several intricate details that require additional study, especially from the full image sets. Since their size precludes inclusion here, these details will be kept for a later study.

It should be noted that Figure 7 was derived only by turning, or skewing, the image NASA placed on its web pages in May 2001, exactly as shown in Figure 2 above. The author of this report has not done any pixel inter- polation on these images. The only processing has been adjusting brightness and contrast and of course skewing.

Figure 8: MGS east half mirrored
Figure 9: MOLA east half mirrored

The astonishing east-side mirrors, from MGA and MOLA show features that could be construed as animal or bird-like. Although the resemblance to a large feline, like a lion is apparent, there is also an uncanny likeness to a bird with a beak. The author suggests that the eastern side of the Face on Mars may actually represent a composite piece of artwork, both feline and bird-like. Whilst this is speculation, it is valid in the context of trying to understand the presence of such a perplexing formation on Mars within proximity of the Crater/McDaniel mound layout and its angular relation- ship to the pentad/hexad.

Clearly, deciding where exactly the centre line of the image lies has a bearing on how the two halves appear when mirrored. Moving the centre line some pixels to the east or west does not substantially alter the views when the two halves are mirrored. 

The April 1998 image of the Face, although released to the world’s media as a ‘catbox’, i.e. with tonal information removed and with the image having been passed through a high-frequency filter, thus suppressing 3-dimensional relief and giving the appearance of a flat mountain, eroded beyond recognition, nevertheless retained the same east-west dichotomy.

This author attempted a similar experiment in 1998 with the very poor data released then. A similar result was obtained then, quite surprisingly.

Figure 10 shows a provocative relationship between the placement of the Face on Mars and the grid formed by the mound layout known as the pentad/hexad, discovered by professors Horace Crater and Stanley McDaniel.

The grid was shown, mathematically, to be a square-root-two layout.

These latest images from MGS MOC (Mars Observer Camera) and MOLA only confirm that the Face remains an enigmatic and curious feature, requiring further research as to its possible meaning and presence in the northern hemisphere of Mars. The debate will continue………….

Ananda L. Sirisena

June 2001.

It should also be noted that NASA placed a much lower resolution image derived from laser altimeter data on its web pages at the same time as it released the Face in May 2001. (see four images below). They were also – sadly - reversed. The image should be flipped in order to see the correct orientation of the Face. The resolution of these was much lower even than the 1976 Viking images but confirm the general layout and structure of the terrain which represents the famous ‘Face on Mars’.

Figure 11 – Note: Above 4 images should be reversed for correct orientation.