New Mars Global Surveyor Images of
In November 7, 1996, well before Mars Pathfinder had even landed
at its hyperdimensional site of 19.5° x 33°, NASA had already
launched its next mission to the Red Planet.
Mars Global Surveyor
was the successor to the ill-fated Mars Observer, to be fitted with
a slightly upgraded version of that probe's "Malin camera," designed
by Dr. Michael Malin.
Malin Space Science Systems had won a new contract for the camera on
MGS in a less-than-open competition. Attempts by the military team
that ran the Clementine mission to the Moon to bid on the contract
were rejected in a manner that one witness described as "frothing,"
in spite of the fact that the Clementine team's camera was superior
in all respects to Malin's. So NASA asked Dr. John Brandenberg, an
old colleague of Hoagland's from the early independent Mars
investigations, to present the camera a second time to JPL's open
The decision was then abruptly assigned to a
"selection committee" run by JPL, who selected Malin and his camera,
basically the same 1993 technology that was on Mars Observer, over
the more flexible Clementine instrument, which, among other things,
could be gimbaled to point at an off-nadir target, while the entire
spacecraft had to be maneuvered to take such an image in the case of
the Malin camera. JPL, it seemed, really wanted Malin to be the
camera man for the next Mars mission.
This time however, we had reason to believe that we might finally
get the images we had waited so long for. The launch of Mars Global
Surveyor had followed the ritual pattern we had come to expect. As
MGS pulled away from the cape, Sirius was hovering at 33° below the
horizon. We hoped that this meant that MGS would be successful where
Mars Observer had failed.
In fact, there was even a "double alignment" of sorts at the launch,
with Orion's belt star Alnitak also at 33° below the Cydonia
horizon. So we had a "hit" on the occasion of the launch at both the
launch site and the anticipated target zone.
With Malin's well-demonstrated hostility toward the Cydonia issue
clouding everything around the mission, Stan McDaniel's SPSR
organization arranged a clandestine meeting with NASA's Dr. Carl
Pilcher, the Acting Director of Solar System Studies, in November of
1997. At the meeting, which was attended by McDaniel, Carlotto and
Brandenberg among others, Pilcher feigned interest and promised that
Cydonia would be imaged at every opportunity during the "science
mapping phase" of the mission. He later dismissed the meeting,
saying he "just took the meeting to get SPSR to stop bothering us."
However, in a report on the meeting made by Carlotto at a Brazilian
UFO expo, there was this one intriguing nugget:
"Moreover, they said that they are in fact very interested in these
objects, for two reasons. There are two groups in NASA. One group
believes that [UFO researchers] are all wrong, and they want to
prove it. So they want to take these pictures to prove that you're
wrong, so you'll go away. The other group - and our sense is that
it's a small but growing group within NASA - believes that we have
some interesting data, and they want to take a closer look at
Unfortunately, despite Pilcher's verbal promise that
re-photographing Cydonia was now "official NASA policy," SPSR didn't
get anything in writing.
As the Spring 1998 orbital insertion of MGS
approached, Hoagland used the power of his appearances on Coast to
Coast AM to ratchet up the pressure on NASA to formally commit to
re-photographing Cydonia. He argued that Malin should not have the
god-like power to decide what would be photographed, that the data
stream from the Orbiter should be live, as opposed to the (up to)
six months embargo period Malin was allowed under his private
contract, and that Malin should be put on record as to whether he
had any knowledge about Mars Observer's disappearance or possible
As the public pressure mounted, Malin took to the airwaves himself
in an effort to diffuse the situation and retain exclusive control
over "his" instrument - which the American public had paid for.
Malin chose to give an interview to Linda Moulton Howe, a regular
contributor to Coast to Coast AM. In the interview, he expressed
indignance that anyone could view him as being responsible for what
happened to the Mars Observer. He also went to great lengths to
claim that getting an image of an object as "small" as the Face
(which is about 2.5 x 2 km) was an iffy proposition at best,
comparing it to winning the lottery. When Howe asked him what he
would say to those that had waited for almost twenty years for new
images of the region, Malin said "... all I can say is, jeez, I'm
sorry, that's the reality of the thing."106
We, of course, knew this to be baloney. The targeting capability of
the MGS camera was exceptional, with very little error built into
the system. Malin's team had devised an excellent targeting software
suite that enabled them to preselect a Face-sized target with ease.
There are two factors affecting the targeting of a specific object
with the MGS camera: downtrack and crosstrack. "Downtrack" is the
path back along the spacecraft orbit. "Crosstrack" is the lateral
scanning normal to the spacecraft's vertical axis. Of the two,
crosstrack is by far the most difficult to account for when
targeting a specific object because of uncertainties in the mapping
grid developed by the Rand Corporation.
However, even in the worst case scenario, the maximum crosstrack
error is about 0.15 miles, or one eighth of the width of the Face
itself. The downtrack error margin is significantly less than even
that small distance. In the words of Stanley McDaniel's "McDaniel
Report," hitting a specific target the size of the Face is "About as
difficult... as hitting a door with a baseball from a distance of
about one foot."
Malin's attempts to deceive the listeners with his "lottery"
comments were obviously very worrisome to Hoagland and the other
Cydonia researchers. In a page on his website, Malin had made his
feelings plain as recently as 1995, when he stated that "no one in
the planetary science community (at least to my knowledge) would
waste their time doing 'a scientific study' of the nature advocated
by those who believe that the 'Face on Mars' [is] artificial."
This was of course a gross misstatement of the argument. No one, not
even Hoagland, had expressed a specific belief that the Face or any
of the other objects at Cydonia were artificial. Although we all
strongly suspected they might be, we'd merely argued that they
deserved further study and should be imaged at every opportunity.
But Dr. Malin had a long history of distortion and obfuscation when
it came to the Face and Cydonia.
According to Vincent Dipietro, during the "Case for Mars" conference
in Boulder, Colorado in 1981, Dipietro and his research partner
Gregory Molenaar were audibly assaulted by Malin. Malin had set up a
display table near to the one hosted by Dipietro and Molenaar, who
were trying to generate interest in the Face and their image
enhancement process. Every time anyone approached the table and
started to look at the images of the Face, Malin picked up a
megaphone and began yelling into it, creating so much noise that he
was able to drive away many a curious conference-goer.
It seemed obvious that he and JPL remained extremely hostile to the
idea of even trying to target the region. Further, Hoagland noted
that Pilcher's promise was to target Cydonia only during the
"science mapping" phase of the mission. This was key, because MGS
was about to enter a prescience mapping orbit that would have it
pass over Cydonia every nine days.
In March 1998, after receiving literally tens of thousands of faxes
from Art Bell's Coast-to-Coast AM audience demanding that NASA take
new photos at the first opportunity, NASA finally caved. In a
prominent agreement, later posted on the official JPL website, the
Mars Surveyor Project agreed to "announce these [Cydonia] imaging
opportunities in advance..." and then "(shortly after receipt] to
post the resultant images on the internet." According to the
specific terms of this agreement, "we [the Mars Surveyor Project]
expect that there will be widespread scientific and public interest
in the new results from Mars. As such, there is a strong commitment
by NASA and the MGS scientists to release data to the public on a
The project will be releasing data shortly after
receipt on the internet in a manner similar to that seen on the
Clementine, Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous and Mars Pathfinder
"The Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft is only able to photograph
features on the surface of Mars that are directly below it as it
makes each orbital pass. The spacecraft will fly directly over the
Cydonia region, where enigmatic features were observed in the Viking
mission, a few times during its mapping mission.
"The Mars Global Surveyor
project will announce these imaging opportunities in advance and
will post the resultant images on the internet.
The fax and e-mail campaign generated by Hoagland and Bell paid off
a few weeks later when NASA announced its first Cydonia imaging
opportunity for April 5, 1998, during the science phasing orbit
period. At last it seemed we were going to get the pictures that
might settle the argument once and for all.
Playing in the Catbox
In the anxious days leading up to the April 1998 imaging
opportunity, NASA released even more details on the targets planned
for the science phasing orbit images.
They released a list including Cydonia, the Viking 1 and 2 landing sites, and the Pathfinder
landing site. If it was designed to be a run through of all of the
possible "temple sites" on Mars, it could not have been more
The announcement emphasized that these sites were chosen
because they could provide scientists with crucial "ground truth"
measurements to compare with what they had seen from the landing
sites themselves, even though they acknowledged that the Landers
would not be visible.
Exactly how these images could be of any use
in making such comparisons when the Landers weren't even visible
escaped us, but it was certainly true that, visible Landers or not,
this ritual of re-photographing the most "sacred sites" on Mars
established by man could serve a powerful ceremonial function.
keeping with Malin's previous statements, the announcement
maintained the idea that actually imaging a specific target would be
"The probability that the targets of interest will be within the
camera's field of view varies between thirty and fifty percent."
A further update announced that the Cydonia image would be taken on
orbit 220, at 08:33 UTC (Universal Time). This gave us an excellent
chance to look for alignments for that image. The first place we
looked would logically be Cydonia, where the image was being taken.
There were no alignments there. However, when we checked the sky
over JPL, from which the command to take the image was sent, we did
find a significant alignment - Sirius/Isis hovered below the JPL
horizon at precisely the tetrahedral 19.5° altitude when the image
was taken. So the ritual pattern continued.
Heading into the April 4 weekend, NASA announced that the Cydonia
image targeting the Face on Mars would be released on Monday
morning, April 6 at 10:30 a.m. PDT. Getting such a precise date and
time aroused our curiosity, and as we waited over the weekend for
the image to be taken, we occupied ourselves by checking the
alignments for the image release.
Although there was no alignment over JPL at that time, there was a
significant alignment of Orion's belt star Mintaka at 33° below the
horizon at Cydonia. In addition, Mintaka was almost dead on the
Meridian, making this an extraordinary "double hit" in the ritual
system. We concluded after finding this alignment that we would
indeed get something very significant that Monday morning.
On the morning of the sixth, we all huddled around our computers,
anxiously awaiting the image release. Precisely at 10:30 a.m., in
accordance with the alignments that had been established, the link
appeared on our screens. When we clicked on it, we saw what we had
been waiting for over two decades to see - sort of.
The image that was released was a black, grainy, essentially blank
image. Was this a joke? [Fig. 6-1]
Unfortunately, it was not a joke (that was to come a few hours
later). It was a raw image, supposedly of the data that had been
uploaded to the spacecraft. However, even though the image was taken
in the full light of mid-day, it was virtually black. This was not
what anyone, even the media, had expected.
Hoagland's phone began to
ring off the hook, asking him if he still "believed" in the Face on
Mars and if he had any comment. He simply responded that he was
disappointed with the quality of the image, since we had all been
led to believe that it would be much better than Viking's raw data,
when in fact it was worse. He urged caution until we saw if NASA
would release a processed version later in the day.
That "processed version" came a few hours later, from JPL's Mission
Image Processing Laboratory (MIPL). At last we could see enough
detail to tell where in the image swath the Face actually fell.
Contrary to his previous claims about "hitting the lottery," Malin
was able to nail the Face dead center in the image on his first
official attempt. Rotating the spacecraft "off-nadir" as it
approached Cydonia, Malin and the JPL navigators positioned the
probe and its camera to capture the Face nearly perfectly. It was
dead center on both the crosstrack and downtrack of the image swath.
There was only one problem; not only didn't the Face look much like
a face, it didn't look like much of anything [Fig. 6-2].
Instead of a high resolution overhead view of the Face, we got a
low-contrast, noisy and washed-out image that was apparently taken
well after MGS had passed the Face mesa. This resulted in a view
that was looking up from below and dramatically to the left side.
Details of the right side, previously shadowed in the Viking images,
were visually compressed by perspective and hidden behind the
"nose." The image swath had extended far beyond the
Face to the north, showing a featureless plain, and south all the
way to the D&M Pyramid, capturing almost one full corner of that
enigmatic object. The image was so lacking in contrast and detail
that it gave the impression of a flat, blank desert landscape, with
virtually no elevation at all.
This was not what the researchers or the public had expected to see.
But it was clearly what JPL and MSSS wanted the media to show them.
Within an hour of the release of an image that they surely knew was
far below the quality of what could be obtained from the raw data,
JPL spin doctors had spread out to the various news media
pronouncing the Face to be natural. Obviously working from
pre-arranged talking points, these spin doctors-employees of JPL
mostly - insisted that even though they were NASA scientists (and by
implication smarter than most of us) they were not speaking for NASA
or JPL, but only for themselves.
NASA and JPL pronounced that neither would take an official position
on the image, thereby draping both organizations in a fallacious
robe of objectivity. Surely, they knew what their employees were
doing on their lunch hours, since it was all over the television.
The end result of this was to insulate NASA and JPL from direct
criticism on the matter. Any of their employees subsequently found
to have made false statements or unscientific arguments over this
issue could be dismissed as "loose cannons" that acted outside the
purview of their responsibilities at the agency. This meant that
there could never be a second "McDaniel Report," proving NASA's
complicity in a campaign of misinformation and ridicule of a
scientifically testable hypothesis. At the same time NASA could then
claim that it acted openly and honestly by releasing data quickly
and allowing its scientists to comment on the matter.
Hoagland and the other independent researchers were caught off guard
by this well-coordinated media assault against them. Still trying to
process the raw image themselves and hopefully get a better version
of it than had been provided by JPL, they were ill equipped to deal
with the media circus around the image release. Facing deadlines,
the major media couldn't wait around for Hoagland or anyone else to
process a better version. When the six-o'clock news rolled around,
they went with the MIPL image.
They were almost uniformly hostile. None other than brilliant
planetary scientist Dan Rather pronounced it "a pile of rocks."
NBC's Tom Brokaw called the image "proof of what we already knew."
Only CNN's John Holliman, who had been friendly to the independent
investigation over the years, was somewhat sympathetic, saying that
the independent researchers needed more time to properly evaluate
the image. He concluded his report by saying "NASA has always said
the Face is merely a trick of light and shadow. Some trick." JPL's
spin team had done the job.
Then, within three minutes of the last national six-o'clock newscast
sign off, a second image suddenly appeared - again without comment -
on the various NASA, MSSS and JPL web and mirror sites. The "TJP"
(Timothy J. Parker) enhancement was a significant improvement over
the earlier MIPL image. It contained far more contrast and detail,
and less noise, than the image that had dominated the newscasts
Parker, a JPL geologist, had produced this second, vastly superior
version of the "raw" data using mostly standard Photoshop tools, and
posted his steps on the web. His version had detail that was far
more visible and confirmed many Facelike features - including
clearly unmistakable nostrils, of all things - but it came too late.
Only after the major news organizations had broadcast their reports
and made their pronouncements did this considerably improved, much
more obviously Face-like image miraculously come to light. Even so,
it was still improperly ortho-rectified and gave a less-than-ideal
perspective on the object.
That night on Bell's show, Hoagland tried to explain all this to an
obviously disappointed public. He pointed out that, given the
distance the spacecraft's vertical track was from the Face, such a
side-view was the best that could be hoped for. However, it wasn't
necessary to have waited as long as they had to take the image,
resulting in a view looking back at the Face from "below." While
this angle did show some new secondary facial characteristics, such
as the "nostrils," it could not be used for a realistic symmetry
study that a true overhead shot might have provided.
Bell, however, was indignant at the political aspects of the day. He
considered it a joke that the horrible "MIPL" version had been the
only one available as the TV news had gone to air, and asked
Hoagland why it might take another seven hours for Malin's team to
release their "TJP" version.
Hoagland admitted that the TJP version
should have only taken about thirty minutes to produce, and lamented
the fact that the MIPL version made it appear that there was no
"Face" at all.
"Well, looking at that image, Richard, I'd have to
conclude as well that there is no Face on Mars," Bell said, "and my
question now is, where the hell did it go?"
Bell summed up the MIPL image by saying that it reminded him of a
pattern his kitty might scratch up in her litter box. It was from
that moment forward that the MIPL image would forever be known as
the "Catbox" version of the Face on Mars.
Honey, I Shrunk the Face
Within a day of the release of the new MGS image of the Face,
Hoagland had become suspicious of its quality, and then reasoned
that there might be a way to discern if the image had been altered
The Mars Orbiter camera, in its "narrow-angle mode," is composed of
a single line of detectors - a 2048 Element Line Scan CCD Array. The
camera produces images by electronically "cross-track sampling" the
array, while the physical motion of the spacecraft around the planet
moves the entire line of detectors over the Martian surface at right
angles to that scan (normally straight down at the planet's
Inevitably, each individual CCD element in such an array possesses
slightly varying sensitivity compared to its neighboring elements,
across the width of the detector. Thus, any image produced by the
"line-scan CCD array" will inevitably display a series of
irregularly-spaced, vertical bright and dark lines - like scratches
on an old print of Casablanca, stretching the length of the entire
image at right angles to the scan.
Normally, these vertical irregularities are removed from the final
image by appropriate computer processing; however, in "raw" or
incompletely processed images, these scan lines can serve as unique
detector fingerprints of that particular CCD array. No two line-scan
cameras will imprint the same spacing, intensity or number of such
lines on any of its images. Thus, like matching bullet markings in a
murder investigation through a ballistics test, comparing lines on
various CCD line-scan camera images cap uniquely determine crucial
aspects of those images - including which camera took which image.
The next day, a listener named Fred Hoddick, acting on Hoagland's
conversation about these CCD idiosyncrasies, discovered that the MOC
indeed imprinted a unique line-scan fingerprint on every Mars
One such image he investigated was a close-up section of the
spectacular Vallis Marineris, the "Grand Canyon of Mars." In
comparing the line-scan signature visible in narrow-angle image with
the pattern of faint lines seen in the raw version of the MGS
Cydonia image, Hoddick indeed made a major, startling discovery -
the spatial dimensions of the Mars Surveyor image of Cydonia
released by JPL were only half of what should have been acquired
When the bright, clear, full resolution image was reduced in size by
50%, its scan-line signature precisely matched that of the Cydonia
raw image. Thus, the raw frame displayed on all the NASA websites
only presented half the spatial data apparently originally imaged by
the camera. This radically reduced the ability of image processors
to detect (if not unambiguously identify) any artificial
sub-structures present in the image.
When this blatant spatial image tampering is added to the extremely
limited grey scale presented in the same MGS raw image (only
forty-two out of a possible 256 shades of grey were present in the
raw data) the result is an extremely noisy image enhancement.
Because of the morning light aspect of this MGS Cydonia photograph,
this reduced number of grey levels further distorted the raw Mars
Surveyor Cydonia image, effectively eliminating meaningful
comparisons with the previous Viking data. This comparison is
further hampered by NASA's choice of the spacecraft imaging angle -
oblique, as opposed to Viking's overhead frontal view.
Finally, NASA's choice of imaging enhancement tools for this bland
image - high-pass filtering - further reduced the MIPL version of
the Face from Mars Surveyor to a black and white "cartoon," what Art
Bell termed whimsically "the Catbox image."
Michael Malin quickly responded by saying that the image was reduced
in size by 50% over what could have been acquired in order to avoid
a downtrack error from occurring and missing the Face. Of course, as
we have already discussed, the major navigation problem with MGS was
not down track, but cross track, and that error range was so slight
as to be insignificant in targeting an object as large as the Face -
and to extend the downrange "footprint" of the Surveyor's imaging,
from slightly under seven miles to twenty-six miles, in an
ostensible effort to guarantee successfully re-imaging the Face (but
at the cost of cutting the surface resolution in the camera in half)
simply doesn't make sense. And the spectacular success of the JPL
navigation team confirms this - the actual location of the Face in
the image JPL released was almost dead center of the "downrange"
footprint, and just left of the east/west "cross track." (In the
words of one of Malin's own associates on that Monday afternoon: "We
Other nagging inconsistencies also remained. If "trading off imaging
resolution for a larger photographic footprint was a deliberate
pre-Cydonia strategy reached by the entire project, why didn't
anyone at NASA (including Michael Malin) say so before the Cydonia
attempt? Why did they wait to offer an explanation for this
"surprise" only after Hoagland caught them at it?
And, finally, there is the little matter of the "corrected caption"
that then appeared on JPL's own website
"CYDONIA PHOTO CAPTION
"as stated on: Mon 04/06/98 10:30 AM PDT Image dimensions: 1024 x
19200 pixels, 4.42 km x 82.94 km
"This was a typographical error for which we appologize [sic].
"Actual image dimensions: 1024 x 9600 pixels, 4.42 km x 41.5 km."
Somehow, it's hard to imagine anyone typing "19200" in place of
"9600," 82.94 km for 41.5 km - even in a government contracted
typing pool at JPL - but if the original transmitted imaging
resolution from Dr. Malin's camera was 2048 pixels across,
subsequently downsized on Earth to 1024, then the corresponding down
track dimension would have been precisely 19200 pixels - exactly
what the original NASA caption read, exactly consistent with
Hoagland's discovery that the image was somehow missing 400 percent
of its expected resolution.
In other words; they did it.
Responding to the other major criticism that greeted the first raw
Cydonia image - that it was simply too dark, resulting in a lack of
grayscale contrast range - Malin posted data claiming that the MGS
raw image in fact "wasn't all that dark..." He attempted to compare
the new MOC data of Cydonia with the twenty-two-year-old Viking
image histograms, insisting that in truth "the MOC data actually
have more grey levels than the Viking images..." There is only one
small problem with Dr. Malin's analysis - he's wrong.
The major difference is that both Viking Cydonia frames were taken
in the late afternoon, with long shadows obvious in even the raw
data. The MGS image was taken at 10:00 a.m. local Martian time - yet
the image histograms showed more levels of gray in the Viking images
than the MGS image, and all this with a camera that was on the order
of ten times better than Viking's
In the end, we were forced to conclude that the supposedly raw image
was a second-generation copy filled with noise and devoid of crucial
detail-and an SPSR member was about to show us that the "Catbox"
image was an even bigger ruse...
Unmasking the Catbox
Even as the controversy raged over the question of the raw data,
other independent researchers remained focused on the MIPL, or
Catbox, enhancement. However much detail and contrast had been
removed from the raw data, it paled in comparison to the hatchet job
done on the Face by the unnamed creator of the Catbox image. One
researcher, Lan Fleming of SPSR, was also a NASA contractor by day.
He spent weeks trying to recreate the Catbox image with standard
software processing tools, to no avail. No matter how hard he tried,
he was unable to reproduce the flat, featureless look of the
Then he decided to try a new combination of techniques. By first
applying a high-pass filter (which removes high frequency data from
an image) and then a low-pass filter (which removes low frequency
data), he got very close to the Catbox look. This was also probably
how so many of the gray levels were removed from the raw image
presented by JPL. He then applied a noise filter, which introduced
more noise into the image, to reproduce the "graininess" that was so
prominent in the Catbox enhancement.
But he was still lacking a crucial "something." Fleming had noted
that a boulder near the Face in the Catbox image was producing a
shadow that pointed almost due north, essentially the twelve o'clock
position in the image, implying that the light was coming from the
six o'clock position. He knew this had to be a false shadow, since
the light was coming from below the Face, in the four o'clock
position, when the image was taken. He was now stuck trying to find
a filter that could reproduce this effect [Fig. 6-5].
Eventually, he tried an emboss filter, a software tool that works by
turning lines and edges into a relief. These edges then become
illusory ridges and depressions, depending on the direction that is
chosen for the false lighting. This has the effect of creating false
visual cues for elevation, effectively scrambling an image to make
it less visually coherent.
By adding these two additional filters, the Catbox image was
revealed as a simple fraud. As Fleming put it:
"After JPL removed most of the tonal variation in the original image
that gives the observer the visual cues to the real
three-dimensional shape of the object, they added false visual cues
to give the object its rough, jumbled appearance, inadvertently
falsifying the appearance of the surrounding terrain as well... the
Catbox is not a 'poor' enhancement, as it is often called; it is a
crude but very effective fraud perpetrated by employees or
contractors to the United States government.
Even if the Face is
proven to be completely natural, this is inexcusable misconduct and
a gross abuse of power.
If the Face ultimately is proven to be
artificial, the Catbox will certainly come to be regarded as the
greatest, most malicious and most destructive scientific hoax since
the Piltdown Man, and perhaps of all time."
In other words, in order to get from the original raw MOC 22003
image to the eventual Catbox enhancement, which defined the Face to
the majority of the public and academia for several years afterward,
NASA/JPL/MSSS had gone to the following trouble:
Reduced the resolution of the
original 2048 x 19200 image strip to 1024 x 9600, some time
after acquisition of the image
Removed almost 85% of the tonal
variations by using high-pass and low-pass filters on the
After initial processing,
applied another high-pass filter
Applied a noise filter to induce
more noise into the image than had already been created by
the previous processes
Used an emboss filter to delete visual elevation cues and induce
false visual cues into the image
And all of this, just to discredit an investigation that "no one" at
NASA or JPL supposedly took seriously.
Just what was it on that original raw data that was so threatening
that it would require this degree of suppression? We may never know.
Over the following weeks and months, Carlotto and a whole host of
amateurs performed enhancements on the new Face image.
hampered by the degradation of the "raw" data and the poor light and
angle of the image, some remarkable work was eventually
accomplished. Carlotto produced a better ortho-rectification than
the NASA version, and still others produced even better versions.
Eventually, the "Mark Kelly enhancement" came to be viewed as the
best that could be gleaned from the limited source data.
Although hardly an ideal rendering, the new Face image at least
confirmed many of the assumptions and predictions of the early
independent investigations. There was indeed a "brow ridge,"
apparently on both sides and roughly symmetrical. The beveled
"platform" upon which the Face rested could also be confirmed as
being close to 98% symmetrical, a condition that was almost unheard
of in any natural formation. Beyond that, there seemed to be a
curled lower lip, and fairly unmistakable "nostrils" in the nose,
right where they should be if they were indeed intended to represent
nostrils. There was also a hint of a pupil in the eye socket.
To Dr. Tom Van Flandern, these obvious secondary facial
characteristics were compelling. He argued that such features were
inherently predicted by artificiality hypothesis, and that their
existence represented strong enough evidence to conclude that the
Face was artificial.
"The artificiality hypothesis predicts that an image intended to
portray a humanoid face should have more than the primary facial
features (eyes, nose, mouth) seen in the Viking images," he wrote on
"At higher resolution, we ought to see secondary facial
features such as eyebrows, pupils, nostrils and lips, for which the
resolution of the original Viking images was insufficient.
presence of such features in the MGS images would be significant new
indicators of artificiality. Their existence by chance is highly
improbable. And the prediction of their existence by the
artificiality hypothesis is completely a priori.
"By contrast, the natural-origin hypothesis predicts that the 'Face'
more fractal (e.g., more natural) at higher resolution.
that resembled secondary facial features could do so only by chance,
and would be expected to have poor correspondence with the expected
size, shape, location and orientation of real secondary facial
Any such chance feature might also be expected to be part
of a background containing many similar chance features."107
He finished by saying,
"In my considered opinion, there is no longer
room for reasonable doubt of the artificial origin of the face mesa,
and I've never concluded 'no room for reasonable doubt' about
anything in my thirty-five-year scientific career."
If Van Flandern was more than satisfied, others were not quite as
Carlotto contended that the Face might be artificial,
but that if it was, it was in a "highly eroded" state. Graham
Hancock, a sometime Face proponent who later authored a book about
Mars and the Cydonia controversy (The Mars Mystery), appeared on
Coast to Coast AM a few days after the Catbox image was released and
stated "I have to say, I believe that the advocates of the Cydonia
hypothesis have been dealt a blow." The authors' own conclusion was
that with the source data so hopelessly compromised, there was
little that could be decided about the new image. Our focus had now
turned forward, to the next two Cydonia imaging opportunities that
were coming up. NASA, regardless of Van Flandern's protestations,
had won this round. They had successfully suppressed interest in
Cydonia to the point that no major media would touch the subject for
the time being. What we wanted now was to get more out of the next
imaging opportunities instead of arguing the last one.
On April 10,1998, a few days after the release of the Catbox image,
NASA/JPL released a document on their website announcing the second
set of "targeted imaging opportunities." It contained a map of
Cydonia with a predicted image swath through the city, with the
so-called "city square" as the primary target. The document
explained that NASA had decided to ignore the Face on this second
pass since it had already been "successful" in capturing the Face on
the first Cydonia over-flight. While we all contested the accuracy
of that statement, the question of artificiality at Cydonia had
always rested on far more than the Face, and it would be good to get
images of some of the other pyramidal structures and the odd, Giza
Pyramid-sized mounds scattered around the Cydonia plain [Fig. 6-6].
The document also contained one specific statement, which caught our
"Results of the Cydonia imaging will be posted on the internet, in
the same manner as in the first observation attempt, at
approximately mid-evening Pacific Time on Tuesday, April 14."
The authors immediately recognized this as an opportunity to run a
true, indisputable a priori test of our ritual alignment model. Even
though we had been successful in pointing out the ritual alignments
on the first image release, on this occasion we did not even have a
specific time for the release, just a general "mid-evening"
timeframe. It was up to us to construct a falsifiable experiment
that would verify our hypothesis.
Fortunately, the stars cooperated. We decided to first look at the
sky over JPL, since that was where the image release was being
controlled and where the servers providing the images were almost
certain to be located. It didn't take us long, looking at the stars
through Red Shift 2, to pin-point the timing for the image release.
At 6:55 p.m. (PDT) on the anointed date, Sirius would be passing
through 33°, right over JPL. This moment in turn would open up a
"window" in which the three belt stars of Orion would all pass
through that 33° altitude over the next ten minutes.
So we had an unmistakable opportunity to forever silence the
naysayers. But we also realized that a public prediction could alter
the conditions of the test, by providing a heads up to JPL that we
were tracking them. We decided against a published prediction, since
that would make it far too easy to delay the image release by a few
minutes and scuttle our test. Instead, we decided to e-mail our
prediction to specific researchers and members of the press,
including Tom Van Flandern and Art Bell. We predicted an image
release at 6:55 p.m. PDT, when Sirius was at 33° above the JPL
horizon. Although we had the 10 minute window, we knew that we would
have to pick a specific moment for the test to have complete
validity. JPL did not disappoint us.
As we were watching the JPL websites, with Bara on the main JPL site
and Hoagland watching the primary mirror site, we continued to
refresh our browsers to insure we got the image at precisely the
moment it was posted. Then at 6:55 p.m., exactly as we had
predicted, the new image link appeared on the JPL main web page.
Even though we'd scored a "hit," we continued to monitor the primary
JPL mirror site, which had not been updated with the new image.
Then, exactly ten minutes after the image had appeared on the JPL
main page, a link to the new image appeared at 7:05 p.m. PDT on the
JPL mirror site. So they had released the image twice, in effect,
once at the opening of the "alignment window" and once at the close.
But unquestionably, undeniably, they had followed the ritual
As a side note, some months later, when reorganizing the Cydonia
images under a single web page, NASA/JPL changed the release date
and time stamp to show that the second Cydonia image was posted at
6:30 p.m., PDT, taking the release outside the alignment window. The
authors can categorically state that this was not the case. The
images were released in just the manner described above, at 6:55 and
Even more interesting was what the image contained. Although it had
missed the targeted "city square" by some two miles, the image swath
managed to capture a sizable chunk of the so-called "Western
Pyramid" in the City, along with some of the (remember,
tetrahedrally arranged and shaped) mounds and a sizable portion of
the landscape beyond the City. There were some surprises.
One of the objects in the city, the Western Pyramid, had been noted
and named by architect Robert Fiertek while looking at the Viking
data. At its base, just above an enclosed "courtyard," was what
appeared to be a small knob that seemed possibly to be faceted, but
in the original data it was not clear enough to tell for sure. In
scanning the new image (which appeared on the web in both poor
[MIPL] and good [TJP] versions) this "knob" stood out dramatically.
It was a pyramid [Fig. 6-7].
Indeed, not only was this knob distinctly pyramidal, it was overtly
layered and faceted on all four sides, like a cross between a
Mesoamerican pyramid and the structures at Giza, although it was
nearly five times the scale of those Pyramids. Although collapsing
on the northern side, it maintained a rigid four-sided structure
that gave the impression of monumental architecture. From its
southwest corner, a wall extended that terminated in a multi-tiered
structure Hoagland dubbed the "Castle of Barsoom."
A fuzzy fog oddly obscured the southern and western faces, though
"fog" had to be a false description, since the MGS, camera went well
into the infrared and should have effectively cut any local haze.
Instead, the fog seemed to be areas of the image that had
unaccountably lost all contrast and detail. This is generally a
characteristic of a blended, modified section of a digital image. An
examination of the histogram showed major compression of grayscales
in these areas.
A geometric reconstruction of the shape revealed that the best
visual fit for the object was a two-tiered pyramid shape, with a 45°
slope angle for the first layer and a 60° slope angle for the cap
layer. Critics argued that the "Giza Pyramid" was simply a product
of "mass wasting," a known geological process that results in debris
piling up at the base of a mountain. However, the chances of such a
pile of rocks forming themselves into a pyramidal shape with at
least two obvious profile edges and two tiers sloping upward at 459
and 60° respectively, as Hoagland put it, were "pretty remote."
Then came the issue of the tetrahedrally arranged mounds of Cydonia.
Two of them were captured in the new image, mound "P" and mound "O."
Of the two, mound P was the most extraordinary. Not only was it a
neat little wedge shape, as the image from Viking had predicted, but
right next to it was something those images hadn't revealed - a
hexagon [Fig. 6-8].
In fact, there were two distinct hexagons on the image swath, one
next to mound P and another at the bottom of the image, in a rugged
patterned area of the frame called the suburbs. Both were the size
of baseball stadiums and both were unnaturally regular. Mound 0 was
unfortunately just at the edge of the image swath, and although it
too looked faintly hexagonal, the resolution just wasn't there to
reach any definitive conclusions.
Hoagland considered the presence of hexagons on the ground at
Cydonia to be especially significant. In the works of Maxwell, upon
which Hoagland based his hyperdimensional model of the message of
Cydonia, he postulated about the physical properties of
multi-spatial dimensions and their interactions in our familiar 3D
world of energy and matter.
The numbers predicted that the behavior
of a spinning sphere, such as a planet, would outwell higher
dimensional energies at the key tetrahedral latitude - the
now-ubiquitous 19.5° connection.
A lesser-known aspect of this model
was the prediction that there would be inwelling points in the
system as well, and that they would be hexagonal. There had been
some confirmation of this idea in images taken of Saturn and the
sun. Both sets of images showed hexagonal rings of clouds around the
northern poles of both bodies, making the turns at high velocity-No
known physical phenomena could account for this behavior.
Further, if Hoagland and Torun had been right all along in their
declaration that the arrangements of the monuments at Cydonia were
intended to inculcate knowledge of tetrahedral physics to observers,
then placing hexagons all around the area would be a dramatic
reinforcement of that message.
The Final Image
On April 20, 1998 (yes, Hitler's birthday), NASA again posted a
document announcing the third set of targeted observations of the
Viking 1 and 2 landing sites, the Pathfinder landing site, and
Again, this process seemed to be almost ritualistic, as if
they were cycling through the Martian temples one by one. This time,
the release even took the care to tell us exactly what date and time
each image would be taken, almost daring us to look ahead to what
they were planning. Of course, we took them up on it, and although
there were no significant alignments at any of the landing sites,
once again the Cydonia image followed the ritual pattern with Sirius
dead on the horizon from the vantage point of JPL when the image was
The image itself contained even more anomalies, ranging from a flat
triangular-shaped ruin that had a complex latticework of supporting
struts, to rectilinear room-sized cells on the main pyramid. The
triangular ruin was especially controversial, since some members of
Stanley McDaniel's SPSR tried to dismiss it as an old-fashioned
trick of light and shadow, while others pointed out that it pointed
directly due north, quite a coincidence for a trick of shading.
The long-sought City Square was finally captured in the image.
Initially, it appeared to be a set of four fairly unremarkable
mounds, albeit mounds with highly unusual reflective properties.
After some proper enhancement work, however, the four mounds took on
a distinctly more geometric quality.
In the end, Van Flandern's
assessment of the third image was perhaps the most descriptive:
"Triangles and hexagons are rarely found in satellite imagery,
except at Cydonia, where they seem to be common."
Admittedly, we ended the first round of new Cydonia imaging with
some very substantive evidence to support not only the artificiality
hypothesis, but our ritual alignment model as well.
Still, NASA had
scored a big win in the
political battle with the Catbox fraud.
By deliberately manipulating
the data they had managed to relieve the pressure from the
mainstream media. With the Catbox as cover, they had the perfect
opportunity to take their Cydonia studies back under the dark
blanket of Malin's "exclusive rights" contract.
For the next couple
of years, that's exactly what they did.
Chapter Six Images
Back to Contents