by Tom Van Flandern
from MetaResearch Website


















The so-called "Face" on Mars and the surrounding anomalous objects in a region called "Cydonia" appear at first glance to be randomly located and oriented on the planet.


But it has previously been established that the martian poles had a different location with respect to the surface of the planet in the past, and apparently jumped from that location to the present one in relatively little geological time. We draw attention to the fact that the Cydonia area is right on the old martian equator, and the "Face" is oriented perpendicular to that old equator, to within the measurement uncertainties.


This has only about a 1% probability of occurring by chance.


Both the line of inquiry that led to this discovery and a possible purpose for building such an artificial structure looking into space were suggested by the exploded planet hypothesis. Taken in conjunction with the finding of bilateral symmetry in the Face and the anomalous nature of other nearby objects on Mars, the weight of existing evidence has, in this author's opinion, shifted in favor of an artificial origin of the Cydonia complex.


With luck, the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft now en route to Mars will confirm or refute this conclusion.



Figure 1.

Overview of Cydonia region on Mars. North is up.

The frame height is about 1.5 degrees or 80 km.



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Description of Cydonia

The Cydonia region of Mars (see Figure 1) is located at 41° north latitude, 10° west longitude on the red planet.


It was photographed several times by NASA's Viking Mars-orbiting spacecraft in the mid-to-late 1970s. One ground object drew the attention of researchers because of its striking resemblance to a human face. In the opinion of many who have viewed the higher resolution images, the resemblance is closer than seems likely to have arisen by chance, despite half the "face" being hidden in shadow. (See Figure 2.)


Because it is a three-dimensional "face" and not just a profile, it has been described as the next best depiction of a human face in stone on its (~ 1 kilometer) size scale in the explored solar system after Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

The immediately surrounding area likewise contains a number of anomalous-looking objects. One of them, dubbed the "D&M pyramid" after its discoverers Vincent DiPietro and Gregory Molenaar, is shown in Figure 3.


It has a more-than-passing resemblance to a four-sided, or possibly a five-sided, pyramid. The formation of a small crater seen very close to the base on the shadowed side has apparently thrown debris onto that side of the object, and possibly caused it to split or separate, leading to the ambiguity in the number of original apparent pyramidal faces.


But the three faces not coated with debris appear remarkably smooth and triangular, separated by seemingly linear edges.



Figure 2.

Close-up of the "Face" at Cydonia on Mars.



Figure 3.

Close-up of "D&M pyramid" at Cydonia on Mars.


Figure 4.

Close-up of "Fortress" at Cydonia on Mars.



Figure 5.

Close-up of "City" showing its relation to the "Face" and "Fortress".


Still another nearby object has been dubbed the "Fortress" because of a modest resemblance to structures called that on Earth. (See Figure 4.)


Its linear features and sharp angles suggest artificiality to some. A nearby cluster of vaguely pyramidal objects surrounding some unusual small mounds not commonly seen away from Cydonia has been dubbed the "City". (See Figure 5.)


Two or perhaps three other nearby features are each in its own way mildly anomalous or unique on the planet. These may be viewed in (Carlotto, 1991), in (DiPietro, Molenaar & Brandenburg, 1988), or on http//

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Summary of the Exploded Planet Hypothesis (eph)

In (Van Flandern, 1993), the author provided extensive evidence of the explosion of a former major planet in the main asteroid belt. Such evidence may be found all over the solar system. A few highlight points include the following:

Asteroid orbits fill the available range of positions and velocities between Mars and Jupiter that are stable against planetary perturbations over millions of years. Their original population was clearly far greater, with only a small percentage of the original mass still present. Some asteroid orbits, most notably the Trojan asteroids near Jupiter's orbit, are not stable for time spans as long as a billion years, and cannot be original members of the solar system (Marzari, Farinella, et al., 1997).

Asteroid orbits possess "explosion signatures" – patterns first catalogued for orbits of fragments of artificial Earth satellites that blew up in orbit around the Earth, that are indicative of a common origin at one point in space at one instant of time (Gabbard, 1974).

Many meteorites show evidence of separation of heavy elements from light elements by gravity (called "chemical differentiation"), as would normally require a planetary-sized parent body.

All meteorites have relatively young cosmic ray exposure ages, indicating they have not been traveling in space in their present form since the solar system's origin billions of years ago. They must be fragments of much larger bodies. But collisional fragmentation is rare enough that most meteorites should show much older exposure ages than they do. So some other large-scale fragmentation process seems required.

The predicted statistical properties of the orbits of fragments ejected to a great distance from an explosion in the main asteroid belt are well fulfilled by "new" comets. Some of these properties were unknown before being predicted by the explosion model and confirmed in the actual orbits of new comets (Van Flandern, 1978).

Comet comas seem to have all the properties of the predicted debris clouds that should accompany fragments from an explosion. One of these is visibility of the coma all around the orbit. The standard model tries to explain comas by outgassing from a single nucleus as the comet approaches the Sun. But Comet Hale-Bopp, for example, had a fully developed coma when first photographed out near the orbit of Uranus.

Comets and asteroids, to the surprise of mainstream astronomy, appear to be indistinguishable as classes with respect to physical and chemical properties such as reflectivity and spectra.


No unique identifying characteristic seems to exist, as if both had a common origin. Yet in standard models, asteroids originated in the inner solar system and comets in the outer regions, and the two should be quite chemically and spectrally distinct.

The explosion model expected debris clouds around asteroids and comets. This led to a well-publicized 1991 prediction that satellites will be found around both types of bodies.


Mainstream astronomers were shocked when the Galileo spacecraft found a moon orbiting asteroid Ida in 1993.





Figure 6.

Saturn's half-bright, half-dark moon Iapetus.


The explosion would have sent a blast wave of black, carbonaceous material through the entire planetary system.


In fact, airless bodies are coated by just such black residue precisely to the extent they could have been exposed to such a blast wave. The most striking example is Saturn's moon Iapetus, which spins so slowly (once per 80 days) that only one side could have been coated by the blast.


An unsolved mystery of long standing about Iapetus is why it is icy-bright on one side and coal black on the other. (See Figure 6.)

Over 100 lines of evidence bearing on the comparison of the exploded planet hypothesis and the many standard models it would replace are discussed in (Van Flandern, 1993).


The two strongest lines of evidence are:

(1) the occurrence among comet orbits of every statistical property of orbits expected to result from an explosion origin, including some not previously known; and


(2) the a priori prediction of the main physical characteristics of comets by the explosion-debris-cloud ("satellite") model.

An example of the former is the expectation of a population of "new" comets close to solar system escape velocity falling back into the planetary region for the first time since the explosion.


An example of the latter is a quantitative prediction of the mean relative speeds of split comet fragments as a function of heliocentric distance - a feat that is by itself a virtual proof of the explosion-debris-cloud model for comets.

The recent discovery of a second belt of fragments orbiting the Sun in large numbers beyond the orbit of Neptune suggests that planetary explosions into asteroid belts are not rare events on time scales of billions of years. The mean orbital period of new comets tells us that the most recent "planetary" explosion event happened 3.2 million years ago, and the angular momentum of new comets locates that explosion somewhere within or near the main asteroid belt.


The number of new comets, integrated over 3.2 million years, indicates a total mass of the parent body somewhere between that of the largest asteroid Ceres and that of our Moon.


Consistent with that finding, the most common type of meteorites found on Earth, the chondrites, are from a parent body too small for chemical differentiation to have occurred, as is generally true for moon-sized bodies.

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Geological boundary



Permian-Triassic (P/T)

336 Mya

15-Earth-mass "Planet K" (taken from M.W. Ovenden’s proposed name "Krypton") exploded in the outer main asteroid belt, giving rise to C-type asteroids. Iron meteorites are the survivors remaining in Earth-crossing or bits from this long-ago catastrophe that wiped out 90% of all species on Earth. Ceres and perhaps also Pallas, Juno, and/or Vesta may have been moons of this planet prior to the explosion. The large number of Earth-crossing asteroids generated by this explosion then continued to pepper Earth over the next 50-million-plus years, accounting for the seemingly long duration of this cataclysm.

Cretaceous-Tertiary (K/T)

65 Mya

8-Earth-mass "Planet V" (the original fifth planet) exploded in the inner main asteroid belt, giving rise to S-type asteroids. Stony-iron and achondritic meteorites are the survivors remaining in Earth-crossing orbits today, of the event associated with the extinction of the dinosaurs and a single global fire. Mars and Body C were presumably moons of Planet V before this explosion. Other lesser events at 38 Mya ("Body E") and perhaps 16 Mya ("Body D") may have been the explosions of other former moons.


3.2 Mya

0.01-Earth-mass Body C (source of today’s comets) exploded in the inner asteroid belt, giving rise to chondritic meteorites and much of the current population of small Earth-crossing asteroids. Body C and Mars were most probably former moons of Planet V prior to the explosion of the latter. The two abandoned moons may then have remained gravitationally bound to one another as parent and moon until the explosion of Body C.

Table 1.

(Mya = million years ago)



I call this most recent exploded object "Body C" to indicate its association with comets and chondrite meteorites.


Although this astronomically recent event, which coincides with the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary in the geological record on Earth, was apparently the source of all comets still existing today, comets from such an explosion cannot survive beyond about 10,000,000 years after the event because of galactic tides. Chemically differentiated meteors and the larger asteroids presumably originated from earlier explosions of larger planet-sized bodies.

Piecing together a tentative scenario from meteorite compositions and exposure ages, and from geological evidence of mass-extinction events of global extent, the chronology in Table 1 seems indicated (Van Flandern, 1995).

This chronology is based on clusterings in meteorite cosmic ray exposure ages (Caffee, Goswami, et al., 1988) and the dating of tektite strewn fields on Earth (O’Keefe, 1975), plus the major geological events shown in Table 2.





Time of Event

(my – bp)








2,600 - 2,500



very high










very high






Late Ordovician



1,000,000? - tailing off

very high






Late Permian



50,000,000, many events

very high









1,000,000? - tailing off





400,000 - increasing

very high

Late Eocene




very high






Late Pleistocene









very high

Table 2.

Major geological events in Earth history.



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Connection of the EPH to Mars

Early on, it became clear that asteroid and meteorite physical, chemical, and dynamical evidence indicated at least two explosion events in the main asteroid belt. Yet the Titius-Bode law of planetary spacing strongly indicated that the gap between Mars and Jupiter was large enough for exactly one missing planet.

Unrelated astronomical evidence had given strong hints that the small planet Pluto and its near-twin moon Charon were not original planets, but instead were escaped moons of Neptune (Harrington & Van Flandern, 1979). Still other unrelated considerations were consistent with the suggestion that Mercury was originally a moon of Venus that escaped into its own solar orbit in the early solar system because of tidal interactions (Van Flandern & Harrington, 1976).


These considerations would have left Mars as the only original planet in its mass range, the only planet strongly inconsistent with a steady progression of planetary masses with distance to either side of Jupiter, and the only planet with a relatively slow spin rate but no companion large enough to slow its spin through tidal interactions.


It therefore seemed reasonable to suggest that Mars was not an original planet, but rather a moon of Planet V before the explosion of the latter.




  • same distance from the Sun

  • slow spin, as for a moon

  • hemispheric crustal dichotomy

  • geologically rapid 90° pole shift

  • original atmosphere gone

  • abundant short-term water

  • excess 129Xe

Table 3.

Summary of evidence that Mars is a former moon of Planet V


Since that speculative suggestion, many additional lines of evidence have served mainly to amplify its probability of being correct. (See summary in Table 3.)


If Mars was a moon of Planet V at the time of the latter's explosion, Mars would have been severely affected by its proximity to the blast. Because of its mass, Mars must have been in a synchronous lock, keeping the same face toward Planet V just as our Moon keeps the same face toward the Earth.


So this scenario first predicts that one hemisphere of Mars would have been heavily bombarded, and the other barely touched by the explosion. That is indeed a good description of the actual situation for Mars, for which an overview is shown in Figure 7. Except for two extensive lava extrusions, the border between highlands and lowlands is remarkably linear, and almost coincides with a great circle inclined about 35° to the present equator.


This sharp hemispheric border is certainly a puzzlement for the often-proposed explanation that the old Martian northern hemisphere was blown away by some huge mega-impact.



Figure 7.
Martian cratered highlands (white) and lowland plains (shaded).

Left: western hemisphere, 180° to 0°.

Right: eastern hemisphere, 360° to 180°.

From (Christiansen and Hamblin, 1995).



Moreover, evidence of water erosion on achondrite meteorites, presumed here to have originated from Planet V, indicates that the exploded planet contained abundant water as well, much of which would have hit Mars.


Surely, such a dramatic event would have left plentiful evidence on the red planet. Let us compare to what is actually seen today.

In (Maran, 1992), we learn that the northern hemisphere of Mars is only sparsely cratered, compared to the heavily cratered southern hemisphere. (McGill & Squyres, 1991) discuss the huge crustal dichotomy between the northern and southern hemispheres of Mars. The southern crust is so much thicker than the northern that the center of mass of Mars is offset from its center of figure by 3.6 km.


Moreover, the thick southern crust drops abruptly to the level of the northern lowlands, with the surface sloping down 4 or 5 kilometers in a span of just a few hundred kilometers near the present equator. But there are no mountain rings nor catastrophic impacts to mark the boundary between highlands and lowlands, so the cause of what is presumed to have been the destruction of the ancient northern crust is generally considered unknown (Abell, Morrison & Wolff, 1991).

There are two very large, relatively well preserved impact basins on the bombarded southern plains:

  • the 2000-km diameter Hellas Basin at 43°S, 291°W

  • the 1200-km diameter Argyre basin at 50°S, 42°W

Numerous other large craters stand almost shoulder to shoulder in the south.


And unlike lunar craters, southern Martian craters have ejecta saturated with water, giving them a mud-like consistency that caused them to flow along the ground after ejection from the crater.


Branching valleys with tributaries cover all the exposed high terrain except at high latitudes, where they may have been eroded away. Lava flows between large craters on the highlands show that volcanism was occurring simultaneously with the formation of the cratered terrain.


A noteworthy peculiarity is that many large channels start close to the volcanoes in Elysium and extend several hundred kilometers to the northwest, down the regional slope. And several enormous channels emerge from the chaotic terrain east of the Tharsis bulge canyons and extend northward. Finally, the Tharsis bulge itself takes the form of high-elevation terrain and several huge volcanoes in the Tharsis region at tropical latitudes on Mars.

This picture is indeed very much as the exploded planet hypothesis (eph) with Mars as a nearby moon would expect. The actual data for Mars are so close to expectations that one even sees evidence that many of the impacts on the southern hemisphere near the equator were northward-directed grazing impacts. (Strom, Croft & Barlow, 1992) indicate that the cratering on Mars is more diverse than on any other planet or satellite in the solar system.


(Chapman & Jones, 1977) tell us that:

  • the southern highland craters generally have low rims and shallow depths (as if considerable in-filling occurred)

  • the craters smaller than 30 km are too few in number (as if erased by near-simultaneous larger impact events)

  • the "erosion" episode apparently consisted of a "pulse" contemporary with the valley network formation

We might well ask where this "pulse" came from if not a nearby planet that exploded.

If the parent planet were a few Earth masses in size, and Mars subtended a few square degrees in its sky, then Mars would intercept about 10-4 of the parent planet’s mass. Spread over one hemisphere on Mars, this would imply a crustal build-up of about 20 km. This agrees well with the actual crustal thickness of the southern hemisphere, estimated to be 21 km (McGill & Dimitriou, 1990).


The new material would have lower average mean density than the mantle of Mars because it would be more loosely packed. This build-up would shift the center of figure of Mars south about 10 km (half the maximum build-up). But the center of mass would shift south by a lesser amount because the material was less dense. The observed 3.6-km difference (Anderson, Jurgens, et al., 1996) is a reasonable value in this scenario.

The only significant departure from intuitive expectations is that the affected hemisphere is the southern one. In the normal course of events, one would expect Mars to be struck on an east or west hemisphere - the side permanently facing Planet V. Assuming that happens, then after the explosion Mars would be rotating around an axis that had more mass on one side than on the other because of the one-sided bombardment.


This is an unstable configuration. With Planet V gone, Mars would be forced to gradually re-orient its entire body until it spun again about an axis with equal mass balanced on all sides. This would involve an approximately 90° pole shift until the spin axis passed through the middle of the extra-heavy southern hemisphere. The actual pole position before the Planet V explosion is only poorly known.


But from data in (Schultz & Lutz, 1988, see p. 124), the oldest known pole position – near Utopia Planitia (UP) – is roughly 90° away from the position near Arcadia Planitia (AP) last occupied by the pole before it jumped to its present location.


(Speculative intermediate pole positions between UP and AP may be associated with re-orientation delays caused by the co-orbiting of Mars and Body C.)

Not only is the prediction by the eph of a geologically rapid pole shift in agreement with the data, but the approximately 90° magnitude of that shift agrees as well. And the early pole shift(s) are known to be geologically associated with the time the volcanic eruptions began on Mars. This too fits the Planet V scenario because when the north pole was still at location UP, the south pole 180° away was near the Tharsis volcanoes.


Therefore, the UP-Tharsis axis of Mars was the shortest axis. Following the 90° pole shift to AP, the Tharsis volcano region was relocated to near the Martian equator. Centrifugal force would try to flatten the new polar axis and cause the new equator to bulge out. The region under the most stress would have been the Tharsis region because it would have to make the greatest adjustment - from shortest axis to the new equatorial radius.


So this is where the extrusions from the martian interior would erupt as the interior of Mars adjusted to the huge new weight of its bombarded southern hemisphere. The present Tharsis bulge, on which may be found the four largest shield volcanoes in the solar system near its central region, was very likely created at just this time.

Yet another consequence of proximity to a planetary explosion would be to blow away a substantial part of the original atmosphere of Mars.


Again, there is evidence that Mars could have supported, and probably actually possessed, a thicker atmosphere in the past (Lammer, 1996). This old atmosphere might have had a surface pressure up to 10 bars, a factor of 1000 greater than for the present martian atmosphere, and ten times thicker than Earth's atmosphere.


Moreover, contamination of the Mars atmosphere by gases from exploded Planet V may then readily explain the general similarities between the contents of gas bubbles in meteorite EETA79001 (presumed here to be a piece of Planet V) and Viking spacecraft samples of the present Mars atmosphere.


Despite the often quoted statement that the match was "almost exact", it is in fact not especially good. However, no presently existing planet matched as well as Mars, perhaps explaining why the quality of the match seems to have been exaggerated (Van Flandern, 1996).

As further evidence of this scenario, we note that Mars has an anomalous 129Xe content in its atmosphere that is nearly triple that found on other bodies where it has been measured (DiPietro, 1996). Since 129Xe is a second order nuclear fission by-product and does not arise through normal nucleosynthesis, it has long been assumed that an ancient supernova was responsible for the presence of that isotope in the solar system. Then why does Mars have an anomalously high amount of it? Again, its proximity to the eph event is an obvious explanation for Mars in particular to be anomalous.

A missing step in the chronology is an identification of Body C. From meteorite evidence, it must have been an undifferentiated body, and therefore probably a small planetary moon rather than a planet or an asteroid. This agrees with mass estimates based on counting comets (Van Flandern, 1995).


Yet comets also indicate that it had a high water content, perhaps even oceans, rather like those presently conjectured to exist under the ice on Jupiter's moon Europa. A factor in destabilizing the body for later explosion may have been proximity to Planet V when the latter exploded, since Body C would then have received an asymmetric bombardment similar to Mars.


If it was another moon of Planet V along with Mars, it is interesting to contemplate the logical sequence of events following Planet V's explosion. Mars and C are released from their satellite orbits into a solar orbit. With typical satellite velocities, an eccentricity of order 10% seems likely to result for the solar orbit; and Mars does have just such an eccentricity, presently 9%.

Once Planet V has dissipated, Mars and C may well find themselves within their mutual gravitational sphere of influence. Much like Pluto and Charon following their probable escape from Neptune, Mars and C might therefore remain gravitationally bound to one another. The two would remain a stable binary system, evolving their rotation rates and orbits under the influence of tidal friction, until the explosion of Body C 3.2 Mya.


That smaller explosion would pepper half of Mars with smaller, fresher craters and an enormous amount of water. A new round of volcanism would be set off as the weight of the newly bombarded hemisphere increased.


This could account for the evidence of flowing water on mainly the south hemisphere, with some overlap to the north, at around the same time as the cratering and volcanism. Following the explosion of Body C, Mars would then undergo the its final pole re-orientation to its present spin axis as the red planet began to orbit the Sun alone.

Finally, the high deuterium to hydrogen (D/H) ratio of the martian atmosphere implies that almost all its formerly abundant flowing water has been lost in just the last 105 to 107 years. That, in turn, is consistent with the chronology of the eph, for which this main water dump happened at 3.2 Mya.


According to this scenario, the water dumped on Mars then was far greater in volume, and evaporated in far shorter a time, than has seemed possible with all previous scenarios considered up to now.


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Connection of the EPH and Pole Shift to Cydonia

Either the unusual landforms at Cydonia on Mars are natural features, or they are artificial constructs of intelligent beings.


A number of tests of artificiality have been proposed since the area was discovered. For example, it has been noted that the "Face" is a three-dimensional face, not merely a profile or an outline. As such, it still looks like a face from every angle.

Moreover, the U.S. military has perfected the use of fractal techniques to search for man-made objects camouflaged by terrain in aerial photographs. It has been well demonstrated that natural objects show a high degree of fractal content, whereas artificial objects have more symmetry and regularity.


This software was applied to various features on Mars, with the finding that the "Face" gave by far the highest degree of artificiality of any image tested, usually high enough to assure artificiality of the object if it had appeared on Earth.

In the immediate vicinity of the Cydonian landforms, but in general not elsewhere on the martian surface, can be found more than a dozen small, raised mounds of similar she distribution of the mounds (Crater & McDaniel, 1997; see also http// shows that the random geology hypothesis fails to account for the regularity and redundancy of geometric patterns in these formations. At the least, enigmatic geology is involved, the alternative being intelligent design.

Each of these features, taken in conjunction with the presence of several other anomalous objects in close proximity, have induced a number of serious scientists to seek to develop further tests of artificiality, in consideration of the importance of such a finding.

I have proposed four such tests myself, although it now appears that others have made some of the same proposals before me.


These were:

  • Bilateral symmetry of the Face:

    If natural, the chances are negligible that the shadowed side of the object would resemble a symmetric half of a human face, and ought to be a random pile of rocks or sand. If artificial, the mirror image of the visible half face is to be expected.

  • Culturally significant location:

    A culturally meaningful location of the structures, such as on the equator or in the lowest valley on the planet, would suggest artificial design; whereas a seemingly random location would suggest a natural formation.

  • Orientation:

    A human face has a natural "up" and "down". A polar-aligned north-south orientation of a face structure suggests artificiality, while any other orientation suggests a natural formation.

  • Functionality:

    The faces on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota are visible to people on the ground. The "Face" on Mars stares up into space, yet cannot be seen from any other planet, even with our largest telescopes. A lack of obvious purpose suggests a natural object, although we cannot hope to guess all possible purposes of its hypothetical builders. An obvious purposefulness would suggest artificiality.






"Face" in 3-D


fractal test


mounds non-random


nearby context


bilateral symmetry








Table 4.

Original status of tests

of artificiality of Cydonia landforms.


When I proposed these tests, it appeared that the first (and strongest) test would not be performed until another spacecraft returned to take higher resolution pictures; but that the three weaker tests seemed to favor a natural formation.


The status of the eight tests of artificiality then known was as shown in Table 4.

However, recent advances in image processing software (first applied to the Cydonia structures by Mark Carlotto) allowed another high-resolution image of the Face taken at a slightly higher Sun angle to be enhanced enough to bring out some detail on the shadowed side. The result is shown in Figure 8. While the symmetry is far from perfect, owing in part to an impact crater in the "headdress", it is certainly more suggestive of symmetry than of randomness.


Similar results have been obtained using other enhancement techniques by (DiPietro, Molenaar & Brandenburg, 1988), and even by skeptics of artificiality such as M. Malin at


S.V. McDaniel notes the symmetrical headpiece, the second eye-socket, and the continuation of the mouth and "teeth" to the other side of the face as the most significant points of symmetry.



Figure 8.
The "Face" at a higher Sun angle,

image processed to bring out detail on the shadowed side.


Now a development has shed further light on this important artificiality question.


Following a discussion of the exploded planet hypothesis by the author on the nationally syndicated Art Bell radio talk show on December 20, 1996, an listener who wishes to remain anonymous sent email via the Meta Research web site. Assuming the landforms at Cydonia on Mars had been built by advanced beings, the listener suggested that perhaps the exploded planet might have been the cause of the demise of their civilization.


If that were the case, then the structures at Cydonia would have necessarily been built before the most recent explosion event. Having heard me mention the martian pole shift as probably caused by the explosion, the listener asked where the "Face" on Mars was relative to the prior location of the martian pole.

This seemed an interesting and logical question. According to (Schultz, 1985), the most recent stable position of the martian north pole before its present one (designated AP in our earlier discussion) was at 45°N, 160°W. On that assumption, I computed the great circle arc between that former pole position and the coordinates of the "Face" at Cydonia, 40.89°N, 9.52°W.


If s is that arc length, the formula is:

cos s = sin 45 sin 40.89 + cos 45 cos 40.89 cos(160 - 9.52)

from which we compute s = 90.1°.


The old pole position was specified to the nearest 5°, and conversations with the author of that study suggest it is probably good to the nearest 10°. This implies an estimated mean error of +/- 5 great circle degrees. This would likewise be the mean error for s.


So a result that is just 0.1° from the old equator is necessarily somewhat fortuitous. Nonetheless, it is clear that Cydonia formerly occupied a location quite close the previous martian equator. And this passes the "location" test of artificiality in our Table 4 since the equator is culturally significant and there is no known reason why a natural landform would prefer the equator to any other surface location.


Given that there are 41253 square degrees on any sphere, the statistical probability of a random point lying within 5° of the equator of the sphere is 9%. Therefore, the probability that this result for Cydonia is culturally significant rather than chance is about 91%.

With the location test nominally passed, the orientation test took on extra importance. The present orientation of the "Face" is 31° west of north.


If a is the orientation correction between present pole and former pole viewed from Cydonia, the formula for it is:

sin a = -cos 45 sin (160 - 9.52) / sin s

...from which we compute a = -20.4°.


This brings the "Face" three times closer to the culturally significant north-south orientation than it now is. An overview of the situation may be seen in Figure 1, where the straight gray line parallels the old martian equator.

However, we have landforms other than the "Face" to aid in this orientation test. The primary linear features in other nearby landforms also show a preference for nearly the same orientation as the "Face". We see these in Figure 9 courtesy of Mark J. Carlotto, who also provided the following descriptions:

The "rounded formation", the pyramid in the City, the Fortress, and the Face, though different in shape, are similar in both size and orientation.


Figure 9.
The orientation of a primary linear feature

in four landforms at Cydonia is essentially the same,

each perpendicular to the old equator.



The present-day west-of-north orientations of the best defined edge on each of these objects are as follows:

left edge of "rounded formation" in City, 30.8°

left edge of pyramid in City, 30.8°

right edge of Fortress, 34.5°

left edge of Face, 30.9°

The average value for the four objects is 31.8° +/ -1.6°.


Therefore, when we apply the correction a to refer these objects to the estimated location of the previous martian pole, their average orientation is 11.4° +/- 5.2° west of due north. Since any value between 0° and 90° is equally probable for a natural formation, the probability of this being culturally significant rather than chance is 87%. Of course, the probability of three of these four objects having the same orientation to within 0.1° is very much smaller.


But considering that probability would introduce a possible selection bias into our statistics, which we very much wish to avoid. Without that help, the net probability of both the location and the orientation tests being passed by chance to the degree shown here is just 1%. The probability of bilateral symmetry to the degree seen is also too subjective to quantify, but is surely small.

Although these findings are independent of the exploded planet hypothesis, the eph led us to this line of thought. And it has further implications. Under eph premises, Mars is a former moon of Planet V. And as we have seen, Mars would have kept the same side permanently toward Planet V.


So our line of reasoning has suggested a previously unimagined cultural purpose for a "Face" to be built looking up into space: It would have been visible to the presumed occupants of parent Planet V. We can readily imagine that the hypothetical builders would have outfitted the "Face" and landforms with appropriate illumination to make them visible even when in total darkness.


Hence, a cultural purpose for a "Face" looking up into space has arisen from our considerations, thereby completing the fourth test, as shown in Table 5.






"Face" in 3-D


fractal test


mounds non-random


nearby context


bilateral symmetry








Table 5.

Present status of tests

of artificiality of Cydonia landforms.


However, the unraveling of this intriguing cosmic puzzle is not so simple as the naive picture just painted, and we have some loose ends to tidy up.


If the Cydonia landforms permanently faced Planet V at the time of its explosion, they would now be buried under 21 km of debris in the martian southern hemisphere. Moreover, the immediately former martian pole location AP is apparently located within 10° of the center of the original hemispheric dichotomy, as inspection of Figure 7 can confirm.


This means AP was the martian pole after the Planet V explosion. Since the Cydonia landforms were seemingly built on the martian equator when AP was the pole, then the landforms necessarily were built after the Planet V explosion. The location that is now Cydonia was oriented about 100° away from the point on Mars closest to the Planet V explosion.

In the scenario described earlier, Body C was also orbiting Planet V at the time of the explosion, and perhaps became gravitationally bound to Mars following the explosion. It therefore seems plausible, given that the Cydonia landforms are artificial, that the Cydonia builders’ home planet was Body C, accounting for the absence of overt evidence for an advanced civilization on the surface of Mars.


Body C would have suffered a fate similar to Mars when Planet V exploded.


However, the side facing away from Planet V would have been spared the main force of the explosion, and suffered less direct impact than even distant Earth. So we can picture that part of the builders’ civilization was spared by taking refuge on the far side of Body C, or perhaps by escaping to that moon from Planet V before the latter’s demise.

The supposed civilization would have either evolved, or (if pre-existing) have done its best to survive and recover, following the Planet V explosion at 65 Mya. Body C would tidally evolve to an orbit and spin rate synchronous with Mars. Mars, presumed to be the more massive of the two, might or might not have become spin-locked with Body C. At some point, the Cydonia landforms were built on Mars for visibility from Body C.


Then Body C exploded at 3.2 Mya, leaving only Mars, and triggering the final pole shift.


This much smaller explosion largely overlapped the earlier Planet V explosion on Mars, but included more of the present western hemisphere and preventing the sharp hemispheric boundary created by the earlier explosion from being visible all around the planet. Cydonia again seems to have been spared the brunt of the second explosion; so either Mars was not spin-locked with Body C, or a precursor explosion broke the spin lock shortly before the final destruction of Body C.

It is intriguing to note that this hypothesized civilization apparently had the ability to save some of its members from the deadly effects of one or both explosions by space transporting them to the far side of nearby moons. But following the destruction of their primary world, Body C, at 3.2 Mya, this species would have been forced to choose between attempting to survive on explosion-torn, atmosphere-stripped Mars, or long-distance relocation to the most habitable of the remaining planets, Earth.


This is intriguing because the first appearance of hominids on Earth also dates to just about the time of this last explosion, 3.2 Mya.


And it has been noted that the "Face" is apparently more hominid-like than alien.

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The "Face" on Mars has now passed each test of artificiality yet proposed.


These tests include a three dimensional structure, a lack of fractal patterns in the image, non-random distribution of the nearby small mounds, proximity of other anomalous landforms, an apparent bilateral symmetry, being located on the martian equator, having a culturally significant orientation, and serving an apparent culturally significant purpose.


It would be an exaggeration to say that the case for artificiality is now compelling, and many thoughtful people will still find that conclusion less likely than all these "coincidences" put together. Yet the balance of the evidence, considered objectively, now weighs clearly in favor of artificiality over a natural origin of the Cydonian landforms.

As a counterpoint, it is sometimes argued that the probability of artificial structures on Mars must be vanishingly small. However, for all we know, intelligent life may have developed elsewhere in our galaxy long ago, and long since explored the galaxy and left structures on all terrestrial planets in the galaxy. If that were the case, then the probability of finding artificial landforms on Mars is close to 100%.


This illustrates that the probability of the Cydonia landforms being artificial is unknown, which is very different from being very small. An unknown probability can lead to either outcome without being statistically improbable.

It would be disingenuous to provide evidence for such a startling conclusion if no verification was possible in the foreseeable future. The author therefore hastens to point out that the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft is now en route to the red planet for a mapping mission, with cameras able to take high resolution pictures of such potential quality that the truth status of the artificiality hypothesis could be made considerably clearer to all sometime during 1998.


It would be illogical to conclude that the exploded planet hypothesis was either verified or falsified by the outcome of the Cydonia artificiality hypothesis. But both hypotheses have important implications for one another, and go a long way toward providing some understanding of the surprising and curious properties of Mars that we have come to discover in this early space age.

However, in view of the preceding considerations, all might be wise to prepare for the possibility of a cultural shock probably unrivaled by any other in our generation.


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  • All the figures in this paper except Figure 7 are taken from NASA photos.

  • Vincent DiPietro and Gregory Molenaar were the first investigators to conduct scientific research on the Cydonian anomalies, later joined by John Brandenburg (DiPietro, Molenaar & Brandenburg, 1988).

  • The Cydonian anomalies have been widely popularized by Richard Hoagland (Hoagland, 1992).

  • NASA's role in discouraging further investigation has been critiqued by Stanley McDaniel (McDaniel, 1993).

  • The singularly important image enhancements were the work of Mark Carlotto (Carlotto, 1991).

The author gratefully acknowledges invaluable discussions and insights with members of the Society for Planetary SETI Research (SPSR), and in particular contributions from,

John Brandenburg, Mark J. Carlotto, Horace Crater, Vince DiPietro, Lambert Dolphin, Dan Drasin, Jim Erjevac, Marie-Louise Kagan, Stan McDaniel, Brian O'Leary, Ananda Sirisena, Jim Strange, Erol Torun, Dr. David Webb, and Michael E. Zimmerman.

Discussions with Michael Van Flandern were also of great help in piecing together the various parts of this intriguing puzzle.


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