Out There

Out There stories relating to "Google Mars"

Monday, June 6, 2011

This photo was taken by one of the Mars rovers. It was immediately debunked as a trick of light and Badastronomy.com explained that this was obvious in the stereo image. However, the stereo image, which we looked at, only confirmed that the object was an anomaly of the first order. The rover took no more photos of the object, or, if it did, they have not been released. If this is not a person in a heat-absorbing suit leaping to cover, then it must be a statue. It is not a trick of light, a video inclusion or anything other than what it appears to be. Graded A.
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A video of a supposed "Mars Base" found on Google Mars has been burning up the blogosphere. Unfortunately, it is not an image at all, but a digital imaging dropout caused by long distance transmission. Image files contain a certain amount of redundant data that's used for error correction. When the data stream loses its integrity, the error-correction algorithms retrieve this redundant data and attempt to reconstruct each block. If there's not enough extra data to provide a complete reconstruction, what will result is a partial or "confused" reconstruction. That's what you're seeing in those blocks that are both lighter and darker than the surrounding areas. (The lightest areas represent a complete absence of useful data.)

In trying to interpret these kinds of images we have to distinguish between what our eyes are actually seeing and what our minds may project.  When you're trained in photography one of the many things you notice (that most people don't notice consciously) is the behavior of light. Light from a single source (in this case, the Sun) throws shadows in only one direction -- but in this case the lighter blocks are surrounded by darker blocks in all directions, so they can't be shadows cast by a three-dimensional object.

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