Curiosity has been studying features on the surface of Mars for more than 10 years. – Photo: NASA
NASA’s image of the “alien door”, which seems to lead to the Martian subsurface, has generated several conspiracy theories. This is what scientists say.
Recent images beamed back by the Curiosity rover on Mars have revealed what appears to be a perfectly carved doorway leading to an underground Martian tomb. Since its publication, conspiracy theorists have reveled in the image, giving free rein to their imaginations. However, experts are fairly certain that it is a natural feature of the Martian landscape. But if it is not an underground alien society, what explains the strange Martian formation?
Curiosity, which has been studying features on the surface of Mars for more than 10 years, took the image while climbing Mount Sharp with its Mastcam camera on May 7, and it was released by NASA late last week.
From the black-and-white original, several colorized images have been made, including a panorama made by stitching together several of the Curiosity photographs, as seen on Gigapan.com, the website of a panoramic photography company.
What do the experts say? Sandstone outcrops on Mars
Ashwin Vasavada, a project scientist at the Mars Science Laboratory, told Gizmodo that the region was formed by ancient sand dunes that created sandstone outcrops over time. The “door” is most likely a small fracture, he said.
“I think what we have here [is] either two vertical fractures, where the center piece has been removed, or one vertical fracture, and the blocks have moved apart a little bit,” Vasavada told the outlet.
“It’s a very curious image,” British geologist Neil Hodgson, who has studied the geology of Mars, told Live Science. “But in short: it seems to me that it is a natural erosion,” he added.
Many others claim that the “alien door” would have been the result of some kind of stress in the rock that breaks part of it, perhaps helped by one or two earthquakes on Mars, although not all the experts consulted agree.
In fact, the largest recorded tremor on the Red Planet to date occurred on May 4 this year, and scientists are still working to determine where exactly it occurred and what caused it.
This new wave of theories is reminiscent of similar cases in the past, such as the old “moon cube” or the “alien hut” detected by China’s Yutu 2 rover, which, upon further investigation, turned out to be nothing more than another stone.
So while many would love a find of this magnitude, the mysterious door, like the other “finds,” has no extraordinary explanation. However, while Curiosity continues to give us wonderful snapshots of the red planet, with serious research work, it doesn’t hurt to have fun using our imaginations in the meantime.