["Response to Geomorphology of
Selected Massifs On the Plains of Cydonia, Mars by David Pieri," Journal
of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 13, No. 3, 1999.]
Response to Geomorphology of Selected Massifs On the Plains of
Cydonia, Mars by David Pieri
Mark J. Carlotto, Horace W. Crater, James L. Erjavec, and Stanley V. McDaniel
Society for Planetary SETI Research (SPSR)†
1. General Response
that Pieri does not choose to address the data concerning the Cydonia mounds
raised in our paper (Crater and McDaniel, 1999). We also regret his not having
referenced several peer reviewed papers relevant to the present discussion
(Carlotto 1988, O’Leary 1990, Carlotto and Stein 1990, DiPietro, Molenaar,
and Brandenberg 1991, Carlotto 1997). Our paper on the mound distribution
at Cydonia does not refer in any way to the "Face" located in the same general
area. However since Pieri has brought up the "Face" in a context of ridicule
and because this object has also been studied in depth by SPSR scientists,
we take this opportunity to rebut his comments, following which we will
discuss the geological analysis he provides.
the impression that the facial appearance of the object is known to be an
illusion of lighting. This interpretation was long ago refuted in a peer-reviewed
article in which a threedimensional model was derived and shown to produce
the appearance of a face over a wide range of lighting and viewing conditions
(Carlotto 1988). (We note that none of the Viking image team scientists or
other critics of the Mars anomaly research have ever responded to this article
in kind, that is, in a peer-reviewed journal, or elsewhere.) Furthermore,
the appearance of the object as shown in the photo taken in April 1998 by
Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) was accurately predicted in advance on the basis
of this same 3-D model. Subsequent analyses of the recent image show numerous
points of correlation between this and the earlier image, despite different
lighting conditions. (Details are summarized in the next section.) Even Carl
Sagan in his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World admits “There was an unfortunate
dismissal of the feature by a project official as a trick of light and shadow”
attention once again to the “nostril dot” or bit error that gives the unprocessed
image a more face-like appearance. Actually from the very beginning of serious
study of the object, this was ruled out as irrelevant (DiPietro and Molenaar
1982, Pozos 1986). The “nostril” was automatically removed in the normal course
of cleaning up the image. No hypotheses have been put forward by any researchers
based on a mistaken interpretation of such pixel errors.
concatenates perception of the object as having facial features with fancies
of the imagination, such as seeing “letters...or whatever else comes to mind.”
But the fact that such
(in general) occur fails to take into account the specific features of the
object in question, and has no argumentative force. Were we to dismiss any
potential SETI discovery on the surface of a planet, no matter how provocative
and intriguing, by such facile explanations and absurd comparisons (e.g.
with “The Man on the Moon”), we would be doing science a serious disservice.
As for Pieri’s strangely out of place comments on “cottage industries” and
“conspiracy theories,” we do not understand the relevance of these to any
scientifically motivated search for possible SETI artifacts on the surfaces
of planets in the solar system. Associating legitimate inquiry with irrelevant
topics does not seem a productive way to pursue the investigation. It certainly
has no bearing on the distribution analysis of the Cydonia mounds or to the
twenty year long study of the region by SPSR scientists.
2. Analysis of MGS Imagery
Viking images of the "Face" (frames 35A72 and 70A13) were taken almost directly
overhead in the late afternoon, during the Martian summer, under clear atmospheric
conditions at a resolution of about 50 meters/pixel. In the April 1998 image,
MGS photographed the "Face" from a 45 degree angle, in mid morning, through
a hazy winter atmosphere at about 4 meters/pixel (narrow angle camera). Haze
reduces the ratio of direct to indirect sunlight which produces a low contrast
image lacking strong shadows. Portions of the image appear to be partially
obscured by thin clouds (clearly seen in the lower resolution wide angle image
taken at the same time). Also evident are variations in surface albedo (possibly
frost). Together these effects make the raw MGS image difficult to interpret.
As a result it is necessary to alter the contrast to improve the appearance
of the image (Figure 1).
|Figure 1. Original JPL contrast
enhanced image (left). Extreme high-pass filtering removes tonal variations
giving the impression that the "Face" is flat and featureless. Our restored
image (right) gives a more accurate representation of the topography and surface
How do the
images in Figure 1 compare with the original Viking
data? Since the Viking and MGS images were acquired under different lighting
conditions and imaging geometries we used a photoclinometrically-derived 3-D
elevation model of the "Face" (Carlotto 1988) computed from Viking frame 70A13
to generate simulated perspective views (Figure 2).
The first view predicts the appearance of the "Face" for the April 1998 MGS
lighting and imaging conditions. That it is more like our restored MGS image
(Figure 1) suggests our enhancement is a more accurate
photometric representation of the "Face" than the one produced by JPL. In
the second view in Figure 2, we have projected 70A13 to match the geometry
of the new MGS image. Even though the Viking and MGS images are very different
in appearance due to the differences in lighting (Viking is directly lit
from the upper left and MGS indirectly lit from the bottom right), many points
of correspondence are evident.
|Figure 2 Predicted MGS based on
Viking-derived elevation model (left). Viking image reprojected using this
model to match MGS view of the "Face" (right).
(oblique) MGS imaging geometry distorts the true shape of the "Face" and obscures
much of the right (east) side. In an attempt to correct for this distortion,
JPL produced a geometrically stretched version of the original image that
simulates what the "Face" would look like from above. Orthorectification is
a process by which an image that is acquired obliquely is reprojected to
appear as if it was taken from directly overhead. However a key point to
be made is that only if the terrain is flat can orthorectification be done
by simply stretching the image to compensate for the foreshortening in the
direction of the observer.
the Viking derived elevation model used earlier to generate the predictions
in Figure 2 as a terrain model for orthorectifying
the Viking and MGS images. Figure 3 (top) shows the orthorectified Viking
image of the "Face" next to JPL's geometrical stretch. In their image the
internal structure of the object is pushed to the right making it look less
symmetrical and face-like. Shown below in Figure 3 is
the Viking image beside our orthorectified MGS image. Vertical lines indicate
the approximate left and right edges of the platform (i.e., the base of the
"massif") and the lateral center of the object. (We note that because much
of the right side is obscured by the central "nose ridge", most pixel values
on that side in the orthorectified image have been interpolated. As a result
the right side of the image lacks detail. However the lack of detail in the
image should not be interpreted to mean that the right side of the object
lacks detail as well. A good image showing the right side of the "Face" has
yet to be taken.) Measurements derived from orthorectified Viking and MGS
images indicate a high degree of lateral symmetry with the left side of the
object being about 1.4% wider than the right. Again the similarity between
our orthorectified MGS and Viking images suggests these images are a more
accurate geometrical representation of the "Face" than JPL's geometric stretch.
| Figure 3 Orthorectified 70A13
(top left) and JPL's geometrically stretched MGS image of the "Face" (top
right). Orthorectified 70A13 (bottom left) and MGS image (bottom right) with
reference lines drawn to illustrate lateral symmetry.
resolution MGS image provides evidence supporting earlier claims (Carlotto
1997) concerning the symmetry of the "Face", the apparent straightness and
regularity of the its platform, the presence of linear features on the head
above the eyes, and provides new indications concerning the existence of secondary
facial characteristics (Figure 4) including “nostrils” at the end of the
Based on the
above observations it is our contention that this "massif" is quite remarkable
and is unlike any other in Cydonia.
| Figure 4 Top view of head showing
linear features (left). "Nostrils" and lip-like features (right). If these
features are natural why are they located near the lateral centerline of the
3. Geological Considerations
It would appear
from Pieri’s paper that Mars anomaly researchers (SPSR in particular) hold
only one position on the evolution of Cydonia and that Pieri holds an antithetical
position. But in reality, SPSR geologists have, for some time, considered
the Cydonia area to display evidence of lacustrine and marine landforms and
erosional features (Torun 1993). In fact our studies were prompted, in part,
by earlier work co-authored by Pieri (Parker et al, 1993; and Parker et al,
1987). SPSR developed a detailed geomorphic feature map of this area (Erjavec,
1994), on which much subsequent interpretive analysis of Cydonia has been
based. That map not only depicts a complex geology in Cydonia, but includes
marked evidence for lacustrine, marine and fluviatile processes. The map
flatly contradicted the leading thought of that time which stated that Cydonia
landforms were primarily the result of differential erosion. Furthermore,
MGS images have corroborated the findings of the Cydonia map, showing that
this area is the result of many geologic processes with complex interrelationships.
based solely on Viking images at first, publications by SPSR geologists have
supported a complex geologic history for Cydonia as well as a lacustrine or
marine setting (Erjavec and Nicks 1997, Erjavec, 1997, Erjavec 1998, Moore
et al 1999). Pieri states "Such image data suggest a complex formation history,
and a complex post-formation depositional and erosional history." It thus
appears that there is little disagreement between SPSR and Pieri on this issue.
In their analysis of the April 1998 MGS imagery, Erjavec and Brandenburg (1999)
come to basically the same conclusions as those voiced by Pieri in his article:
strong evidence for marine or lacustrine processes, delineation of the "Face"
massif into two structural zones, including a lowermost "shelf-forming" unit,
and the suggestion that the layering morphology is indicative of marine sandstones.
A key difference
between the two interpretations is that Pieri uses a lack of rilling on the
massifs as indication that the primary morphologies were developed in a submarine
or lacustrine environment; i.e., the evolution of the "Face" massif occurred
underwater. Erjavec and Brandenburg (1999) found what appear to be rills on
several Cydonian landforms. This is strong evidence that this area was aerially
exposed and erosion occurred through the actions of both precipitation and
surface runoff. In combination with the lacustrine or marine signature of
this area, it strongly suggests that the morphologies of the Cydonian massifs
are polygenetic in origin. This is an important point as it implies that
the "Face" was exposed during a time when Mars still had a hydrogeologic cycle.
Finally, it should be noted that discussion of the “Face” massif in terms
of general geological characteristics, without reference to the specifically
enigmatic details of the object, has no bearing on the question of possible
artificiality. It is not inconceivable that in the low gravity of Mars, a
large feature may have been artificially modified. The particular structural
details of the “Face” massif that raise questions of origin have yet to be
adequately investigated (Crater 1998).
The authors wish to thank MSSS and JPL for the use of their imagery.
Carlotto, Mark J., “Digital
Imagery Analysis of Unusual Martian Surface Features.” Applied Optics,
Vol. 27, No. 10 (1988).
Carlotto, Mark J. And Stein,
M. C., “A Method for Searching for Artificial Objects on Planetary Surfaces.”
Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 43 No. 5 (May,
Carlotto, Mark J., “Evidence
in Support of the Hypothesis that Certain Objects on Mars are Artificial
in Origin.” Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Summer,
Crater, Horace W. and McDaniel
, “ Mound Configurations on the Cydonia Plain,” Journal of Scientific
Exploration, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Fall, 1999).
Crater, Horace W. The MGS Cydonia
Images: Preliminary Report to NASA (July 1998). (Copy may be down-loaded
DiPietro and G. Molenaar, Unusual Martian
Surface Features, First Edition 1982, Fourth Edition, 1988.
Brandenburg, J.E., DiPietro, V., and Molenaar, G., "The Cydonian hypothesis,"
Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 5, No. 1 (1991).
Erjavec, J., "Cydonia Geology:
Enigmas With An Ocean View?," in The Case for the Face, McDaniel,
S. V. and Paxson, M. R. (Eds.), Adventures Unlimited Press, Kempton IL, p.
Erjavec, J., Cydonia: Some Issue,
Some Answers?, in Quest for Knowledge Magazine, Top Eventsand Publications
Ltd, Chester England, p. 25-27 (1997).
Erjavec, J., Cydonia Region:
Geomorphic Feature Map, unpublished map (1994).
Erjavec, J. and Brandenburg, J., "Evidence for
a Paleo-Ocean Shoreline, Sedimentary Features and Water Erosion in Cydonia
Mensae," AGU Spring Meeting, June 1-4, Boston MA, Abstract, P42A-
Erjavec, J. and Nicks, R., "Geological
Analysis of Enigmatic Landforms in Cydonia," in The Martian Enigmas,
A Closer Look, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA, p. 67-86 (1997).
McDaniel, S. V. The McDaniel
Report. North Atlantic Books (1993).
McDaniel, S. V. and Paxson, M., Eds. The Case for the
Face. Adventures Unlimited Press (1998).
Moore, H., Brandenburg, J., Corrick, S., and Sirisena, A., "Ice Found in Crater
in Cydonia," AGU Spring Meeting, June 1-4, Boston MA, Abstract, P42A-15
O'Leary, Brian., “Analysis of
Images of the Face on Mars and Possible Intelligent Origin.” Journal
of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 43 No. 5 (May 1990).
Parker, T., Gorsline, D., Saunders, R., Pieri, D. and Schneeberger, D.,
"Coastal Geomorphology of the Martian Northern Plains," Journal of Geophysical
Research, Vol. 98, No. E6, p. 11061-11078 (1993).
Parker, T., Schneeberger, D., Pieri, D., and Saunders, R., "Curvilinear
Ridges and Related Features in Southwest Cydonia Mensae, Mars," Reports
of the Planetary Geology Program, NASA TM 89810, pp. 502-504 (1987).
Pozos, Randolfo R., Ed. The
Face on Mars. Chicago Review Press (1986).
Sagan, Carl The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.
Random House, NY, pg. 53 (1995).
Torun, E., Personal communication
† Please address correspondence to: Horace W. Crater, The University
of Tennessee Space Institute, Tullahoma, Tennessee 37388 (email@example.com)