by Mike Bara
from DarkMission Website

Note: This article was originally intended for inclusion in our current book “Dark Mission: The Secret History of NASA” but had to be removed due to space considerations.

It appears here in a modified version to accommodate Internet publication

Gee, what a surprise.

Finally, after more than 20 years of waiting, we’ve been given the first legitimate color images of Cydonia. On September 21st, 2006 the European Space Agency released the latest HRSC (High Resolution Stereo Camera) color imagery of the Cydonia region of Mars. Unlike their earlier release, which was taken in December 2004 under less than ideal conditions, this one came captioned and with a politicized article that emphasized the usual non-arguments against the Face on Mars.

Taken on July 22nd 2006 under much better lighting conditions and from straight overhead, these 13.7 meter per pixel images (designated 305-230906-3253-6-co1 and co2) provide the best overview yet of the area that has come to be known as the “Cydonia complex.” What they reveal is a stunning landscape that is strongly confirmative of almost all of this investigation’s previous predictions. In many ways, because they are color, these two stereo images are far better than supposedly higher resolution images generated by MGS.

In fact, what’s quite clear from examining these new images is that the previous Mars Global Surveyor images of the Face (and Cydonia) leave a lot – quite a lot – to be desired.

Let’s start with a brief review of the concept of spatial resolution in remote sensing data. Most of us assume that an image with a stated resolution of 1.2 meters per pixel is automatically “better” than an image of 13.7 mpp, such as these new Mars Express images. Most of the time, that’s true. But there is a lot more to it than that. If the 1.2 mpp image is grayscale, meaning 8-bit data, it by definition carries less information than a 16 or 32-bit color image.


Further, all kinds of conditions - atmospheric haze, lighting (sun) angles,, camera settings, the optical properties of the camera, the filters being used, the incidence angle of a nadir-pointing camera - can all dramatically affect the quality of the resulting image.


A good case in point would be the infamous “Catbox” image of the Face on Mars.

The example above is the so-called “TJP enhancement” of theCatbox” image of the Face, taken in 1998. While it is unquestionably the best enhancement of this image to date, it is of very poor quality.


According to the Malin Space Science Systems website, the image has a spatial resolution of 4.3 mpp, making it by far the best image of the Face to that point. However, this stated resolution only takes into account the maximum possible resolution, based on the camera optics and the altitude above the target.


The image was in fact taken after the spacecraft had already passed over the Face, from a 45 degree angle to the west, and with the sun at a fairly low morning sun angle of 25 degrees above the horizon, lighting the Face from below. In addition, MSSS had stripped out at least 50% of the data by using an exceptionally large image swath (see “Honey, I shrunk the Face” 1998), and haze and cloud cover made for very poor lighting conditions.


The result was an extremely dark, low contrast image which didn’t come close to the imaging capabilities of the MGS camera. Vince Dipetro, an early pioneer of Face research, concluded that with all the factors included, the effective spatial resolution of the image was 14 mpp, as opposed to the stated 4.3 or the optimum 1.2 mpp capability of the camera under ideal conditions and altitude.

By contrast, the new ESA images were taken from directly overhead, at close to minimum altitude, under full daylight conditions with virtually no cloud cover, and in 24-bit color. Beyond that, unlike any of the previous missions, the HRSC is able to take images almost side-by-side, one after the other. The results were impressive.

The two stereo images, taken just moments apart, provide the best overview of the Face and City we have received from any mission so far. Both frames capture the Face, Fort, D&M and the City in high resolution color.


The first image (305-230906-3253-6-co1) provides the added bonus of capturing the Cliff in the lower portion of the frame, and a substantial amount of the anomalous “mesas” north of the Face first noted by Hoagland in Monuments. What this all amounts to is that these images are without a doubt the best wide-angle view we have ever gotten of Cydonia.


So, that said, what do they tell us?

For starters, it’s immediately obvious that Cydonia is a very weird place, at least as far as any natural explanations for its formation go. Most of the familiar named objects that we have come to know look just we would expect them to. The Fort can be clearly seen to rest on a triangular platform, with a collapsed peak that must be triangular in nature, since in the Viking data it left a distinctly triangular shadow, which gave the illusion of an “inner wall” at a 60 degree angle.


The Mars Express color image is by far the most detailed view of this object yet, despite the fact that the grayscale MGS image has a higher theoretical spatial resolution.

The D&M Pyramid, just a few miles south of the Face, is yet another example of this color phenomenon.


While the composite MGS view shows more close-up detail, the Mars Express image shows the object in much better context, emphasizing the strange circular platform from which it rises some 2500 feet above the plain below.


The Mars Express image is also dramatically better than the Mars Odyssey 2001 visual camera image, showing more detail than can be discerned in that grayscale image while losing none of the critical context.

But perhaps no member of the existing “Cydonia complex” is revealed as more alien than the curiously straight edged “Cliff.”

First noted by Hoagland back in the early days of the Cydonia investigation, the Cliff is an anomalously straight ridge seemingly perched atop the ejecta blanket of a nearby crater. It formed, along with the apex of the tetrahedral “Tholus” and the rim pyramid of the nearby crater, one of the key 19.5 alignments in Cydonia Geometric Relationship Model.


The argument for its possible artificiality has always centered around the fact that it has not only a completely bizarre geomorphology (a near-perfectly straight ridge running for miles) but that it rested on a raised platform of sorts which seemed to post-date the crater impact. Later high resolution images from Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey 2001 and now Mars Express seem to support this.


There is no evidence that the ejecta has spattered on top of the Cliff, and the entire mesa just seems to have been stamped on top of the ejecta flow. After more than a generation, the conclusion that this anomalously straight ridge somehow posted-dated the cratering event (which is a geological impossibility) is more than solid.

Yet another object which has been more recently revealed by this investigation is also re-imaged here. Described in the ESA article accompanying the new Cydonia images as a “skull shaped mesa,” this object just south of Face has fascinated us since it was first noted on the original “Catbox” image strip.


This image showed that what appeared in the Viking data to be simply a natural mesa among the ruins of Cydonia was in fact an intriguingly symmetrical mesa.

The odd ESA description of it as “skull shaped” is attributed to the claim (by ESA) that some people have referred to it as such. In fact, we have never encountered this description in any anomaly related web article or public posting.


The “mesa” in question has caught our fancy for several reasons; its significant symmetry, its proximity to a massive tetrahedral ruin noted by Hoagland in 1998, and the existence of a tunnel or channel terminating at the exact lateral center of the “mesa” in the Mars Odyssey infrared data. Our own conclusion is that the skull reference is a designed distraction, to keep readers from viewing it from a perspective that makes the symmetry obvious.

This symmetrical mesa and a series of anomalous objects north of the Face and City are excellent examples of “Fractal Erosion.”


Essentially, the concept of a fractal is that a given object resembles itself at different levels of magnification. For instance, the Face on Mars still looks like a Face at both lower resolution (Viking) and higher resolution (MGS). With fractal erosion, the concept is taken a step further to predict that a given object generally erodes along the lines of its original shape. So we can reconstruct the original shape of a given object by studying how it appears today.


Using this method, architect Robert Fiertek did a study of the original shape of the City at Cydonia in the early 1990’s.

We can do a similar reconstruction with various objects around Cydonia. Doing so, the “skull shaped mesa” becomes more overtly symmetrical, and the original shape of a number of objects in the north become highly geometric.


This area, dubbed “Super Bowl City” by researcher Robert Harrison of the Cydonia Quest web site, was first noted by Hoagland in Monuments. It contains a wealth of geometric ruins that are nearly inexplicable by natural erosive processes.


In fact, all of the “mesas” in this particular area are very unusual, but the four we have selected seem to be the most non-natural and the most consistent with the other anomalies at Cydonia.

Four especially anomalous objects north of the Face

The West Mound, and “H” shaped structure, a Rounded Mound, and a Triangular Mesa

The far left object, dubbed the “West Mound” by Harrison, is remarkably similar to other objects at Cydonia like the D&M and Main Pyramid in the City. It appears to have a degree of symmetry about a central axis that is highly unusual for any natural erosion process. Close up MGS views reveal blocky, room sized geometric patterns on its more eroded flanks, where it appears the original exterior structure has collapsed inward.


Were this object part of the original “City” it would certainly have been included as a candidate for artificiality, and would certainly have passed the test upon closer inspection.

Three views of the West Mound (Harrison\Bara)

Just a short distance from the West Mound are two more objects that really defy conventional explanation. One is a bizarre “H” shaped formation.

Once again we see the unaccountable symmetry of a “mesa” in Cydonia, this time in the shape of an “H.” The Fractal reconstruction shows it was once a wedge shaped structure, probably a hollow arcology which has collapsed inward around an “H” shaped frame.


The superstructure is clearly sagging and caving inward, but just as obviously it was once a far more robust and majestic building. Directly adjacent is what looks to be a bulging “bunker” with a vertical face and what could be judged as entrances. Assuming the reconstruction is valid (and it would seem to be obvious), then these two adjacent structures would easily be deemed artificial. If they appeared on images anywhere on Earth, it is doubtful that their artificiality would be at all questionable.

Just south of this complex is another object nicknamed the “Superbowl” by Bob Harrison. Rather than a bowl, the object in question is actually a rounded mound about the size of some of the pyramids in the City.


In the color images, a distinct “moat” can be seem around the circumference of the mound, indicating it has sunk at least partially into the surrounding terrain.

Close-ups done by Harrison show that there are large pits or sinkholes around the base of the structure, implying that it is settling into a hollow or collapsing inward from the base into a hollowed out interior.


Obviously, neither of the characteristics is consistent with a naturally eroding object, unless it is some bizarre example if volcanism which forms with air pockets inside. This notion is pretty quickly dispelled by looking at the exposed upper surfaces of the mound, which display the all-too familiar rectangular “room sized cells” where the casing structure appears to have been worn away.


This is consistent with observations from the D&M and the so-called “main pyramid” in the City.

The best, however, is saved for last. Just a little further east of this collection of objects is a very strange triangular shaped “mesa” which seems to have three matching geometric nodes at each of the triangles’ three vortices. It is eroded, to be sure, but what kind of natural process erodes a simple hill into a base equilateral triangle with such overtly geometric nodes at each corner?


This “mesa” is as anomalous as it gets, and for Cydonia, that’s saying something.

As we get into the details of the Triangle Mesa, there is even more strangeness. Just to the left of the northernmost node is a very odd dark feature which appears in both the December 2005 and July 2006 datasets – a distinct “T.”

This very dark marking on the structure is not only aligned perfectly north\south – as is the triangle mesa itself – but its two dark lines intersect at precisely 90 degrees. A pretty cool trick for a “naturally eroding” mesa.


The more recent image suggests that this series of dark interconnected lines may demark the edges of the eroding upper node, perhaps where the base of the node has slumped inward, albeit in a very precise and geometric fashion. With its strange markings, triangular base and geometric nodes, this Triangular Arcology is more than anomalous enough to be added to the candidates list for artificiality at Cydonia.

This brings us, at last, to the Face itself.

You would think, after all the images now taken of this enigmatic object, that there would be little - if anything- new we could learn about the Face.


However, despite the fact that there are now some 14 partial or complete views of the Face from 5 different missions and cameras, the mystery of the Face endures.


Not only do these new HRSC color images tell us new details about the Face itself, they serve to point out the problems and issues with earlier images of the Face, even at the supposedly higher resolutions we discussed earlier.

The first thing we can note is that while the East and West sides of the Face (or “City and “Cliff” sides, as they have come to be known) are made of two distinct materials (see Keith Laney’s Cydonia IR images), their surface color is predominantly uniform.


This indicates that whatever is covering most of the Cydonia region is most likely a layer of reddish dust. This also completely refutes Dr. Phillip Christensen’s assertion in July of 2003 that the Cliff side was covered with a dense snow pack, thus accounting for the dramatically anomalous reflection seen in the pre-dawn THEMIS color image from 2003 (see “The Light Finally Dawns at Cydonia” – 2003).


If this dense layer of snow existed, we’d see it in the color image as a bright white casing around the base of the Face. Since this does not appear, we can safely judge that whatever caused the anomalous brightening in the THEMIS image was due to another (most likely artificial) cause, as we outlined in that article.

Another thing these images provide is confirmation of earlier observations. Secondary facial characteristics – which flatly cannot exist if the arguments for natural origin of the Face are valid – are reconfirmed in these new color images. We can plainly see the two “nostrils” in the nose, which first appeared on the infamous “Catbox” image in 1998, then seemed to disappear in the low-contrast MGS images taken from above the “forehead” of the Face in images in 2001 and later.


Their reappearance is due to a simple function of spacecraft geometry; these are the first images taken from almost directly overhead, as opposed to the MGS images which were substantially up-track from the Face’s actual latitude.

In addition, we can see the sharply defined brow ridges on both sides of the Face as well as the overall symmetry of the base platform.


Indeed, the most compelling observation that Mars Express provides is that the two eye sockets precisely align straight across the Face.


This is in sharp contrast to the MGS images over the last couple of years, which have shown the eye sockets to be substantially out of alignment and the Face platform to be substantially wider than it actually is.

This dramatic difference is due to two factors. First, as mentioned above, is the more directly overhead image angle taken by the Mars Express instrument.


Second, the improper orthographic rectification of the Mars Global Surveyor images contributed substantially to this distortion and the overall illusion of asymmetry. In fact, the Malin ortho-rectification is so bad that it widens the base, twists the nose and pulls the Cliff side eye socket significantly below that on the City side.


We can see with a side-by-side comparison just how far off the Malin version is.

However, if the Malin\NASA version is bad, then the ortho-rectification produced by SPSR’s Dr. Marc Carlotto from the 2001 MGS image is positively abysmal. It is even more stretched, distorted and un-face-like than Malins', and it clouds the situation even further than the poor job NASA did.

No wonder nobody at NASA seems to “see” the Face the way we do.

What all this illustrates is that orthographic rectification is something of a black art, and even those who would claim to have it mastered can be exposed in the light (and color) of the day. It would seem the question of the position of the two eye sockets is forever settled, and once again the independent researchers have won the day.

None of this, however, would seem to have moved the powers that be within the mainstream astrophysics community. Case in point; the ESA.

The European Space Agency´s release of the Cydonia data was accompanied with a typically shallow and half-hearted “nay saying” article, claiming once again that there was nothing at all unusual about the Face, and that gee; it wasn’t a Face after all.

We’ve come to be used to these silly political documents accompanying new image releases from NASA, although they usually resort to far more ruthless and dishonest propaganda techniques than did the ESA (seeHow to Make a Mountain Out of a MOL(a) Hill and Face it, it’s a Face” – 2001). The ESA article was pretty mild, obviously intended for novices and the crowd, who can be counted on to never ask a hard question of their authority figures.

Regardless, the fact remains that after thirty years of back and forth debate and discussion of the entirety of the Cydonia artificiality hypothesis between the independent researchers and the NASA\ESA establishment, the mainstream argument still comes down to the same thing it did in 1976:

“It’s not a Face.”

Or, more accurately:

“It’s not a Face, in spite of the fact it rests on a bi-laterally symmetrical platform, it has two aligned eye sockets, the tip of the nose is the tallest point on the structure, there are two clearly defined nostrils in the nose, the West eye socket is shaped like a human eye including a tear duct, there is a spherical pupil in the eye, there are rectangular, cell-like structures around the eye, the two halves of the Face make up two distinct visages when mirrored, one human, one feline, it is placed nearby a series of pyramidal mountains which have rectilinear cells visible in the interiors at high-resolution, it is in close proximity to a pentagonal “mountain” which is bi-laterally symmetrical about two different axes, it has anomalous reflective properties under pre-dawn conditions, it sits atop a sheet of ice covering a vast network of underground lines and blocks that closely resemble a large city, it is surrounded by a series of tetrahedral mounds which are placed according to tetrahedral geometry, it is within shouting distance of a series of newly observed objects which include a triangular “mesa” with geometric nodes at each vertex, it….

Well, I could literally go on and on. But you get the point.

Their argument is really weak.

Perhaps that’s why, with each of these releases, they take such care to talk about the Face as if it is an isolated anomaly. It’s weird enough by itself, as we have seen. But when you start to add all the other objects into the equation, the City, the Cliff, the Tholus, the D&M, the mainstream argument – weak as it is – completely collapses.

Maybe that’s why this time, ESA, or at least HRSC principal investigator Gehard Neukeum, wasn’t quite up to the disinformational task. Maybe that’s why they needed a little help from their friends at NASA. There were issues with the images we just couldn’t ignore.

Even though they were very high quality, both of the new HRSC images were displayed in a rather bizarre manner. In almost every other case, the convention for such image releases is to display the images with North being the “up” direction, South “down,” and West and East being left and right respectively.


Instead, the ESA images are displayed with North to the right, effectively altering the scientific convention and forcing anyone seeking to study the images to rotate them 90 degrees counter-clockwise to see the Face and Cydonia in their normal orientation.

305-230906-3253-6-co1                                                                                                       305-230906-3253-6-co2

This had the effect of disorienting casual readers, who either had to rotate the images in an image editor or turn their heads to “see” the Face right side up. Again, the only purpose such an annoying change in convention serves is to suppress the interest of the casual reader.

Given that, one has to question the integrity of the people putting the article together. If the mainstream argument is so strong, if the Face and other objects at Cydonia are products of “simple erosion” as Agustin Chicarro, ESA's chief scientist for Mars Express argues, then:

  • Why resort to the confusion tactics?

  • Why force the reader to download and rotate the image just to look at it from the same perspective it has traditionally been seen in?

Really, if the process was honest, there is no reason to do so.


But the inherent weakness of their arguments, and the lengths they will go to in order to preserve them, could not be more dramatically represented than in the stunning 3D perspective views generated from the new data.

The 3D views are an intended benefit of the stereo capabilities of the HRSC. Created pretty much automatically from the existence of two nearly identical datasets (images co1 and co2) these perspective views offer us the ability to “fly over” Cydonia at a resolution never imagined before.


These new views have provided an invaluable look at several controversial features. The “massive tetrahedral ruin” for instance, generally dismissed by the anomalist community at large, is shown here in fine detail for really the first time.


The two perspective views allow us to look inside the object and clearly discern that Hoagland’s original thesis about the object – that it used to be a full tetrahedral pyramid – is not only a valid speculation but highly probable reality.

The one surviving face of the former tetrahedron is indisputably triangular, or once was.


Quite a neat trick for a product of “simple erosion.” Not only that, but the facing appears to overhang the interior support structures, as if the casing was once exactly that. There are several clearly visible structural members (girders?) in the interior of the ruin. It’s fairly easy to follow the lines and the remaining partially buried walls and reconstruct the original shape from them.


Hopefully, these new perspectives will put to rest the absurd “pictograph” speculations of the SPSR crowd concerning this object.

The tetrahedral ruin close-up. Note bright structural “girders” on left side, just forward of remaining casing wall.



Two 3D perspective views of Cydonia (ESA)

These new views also offer perspectives on the many strange and wonderful features of the Cydonia plain.


Truthfully, there are so many strange objects on the ground at Cydonia that it would take years for us to fully go through and analyze them each to the level they deserve.

An often overlooked (but very weird) “crater” in Cydonia

But for each new insight and discovery that this 3D process can provide, there is a countermanding dark side to it. Just as we have seen NASA do before them, the ESA has used (or rather, misused) the 3D process to misdirect its readers.


Once again, the fraud has to do with the Face itself.

The authors of the ESA article realize that while there are dozens of anomalous objects at Cydonia, they have no hope of discounting all of them to readers with any common sense. As a result, they resort to the time honored canard of reducing the entire Cydonia artificiality model to a single question – that of the Face on Mars.


They realize that as the first anomaly to be noted at Cydonia, the Face is the cornerstone from which the rest of hypothesis has sprung. Their thinking is that if they attack the Face relentlessly and without regard for the truth, it won’t matter how much evidence there is supporting the other objects in question.

Apparently, it is this reductionist strategy which drives them to fabricate data.

The “Elephant Man” version of the Face on Mars.

Somehow, the Face on Mars has managed to acquire a distinct lump between the eyes. Like some interplanetary Elephant Man, the Face has miraculously morphed into a grossly distorted version of itself in the new 3D perspective views. We knew immediately that the lump was a fraud, just like the Catbox, MOLA or Middle Butte Mesa NASA scams, because the Face had been imaged numerous times at sun angles and resolutions that would have revealed any such lump if it was a real feature. They had not.

At first, we were perplexed by this, because to this point in the political article ESA and Dr. Neukum had at least shown us what appeared to be honest data. But now, with this newly acquired protuberance, Neukum and ESA had gone from a fairly neutral stance to jump into the camp of the worst kind of scientific charlatanism (think Phil Plait or Richard Lies). What had suddenly happened to convince Dr. Neukum to stoop to such an obvious fabrication?

Then we saw the 3D image credits: “ESA\DLR\FU Berlin (G. Neukum), MOC (Malin Space Science Systems).”

So we had our answer. Once again “Malin happened.”

The images with the distorted hump had been generated with “help” from the boys at MSSS, the heart of darkness when it comes to Cydonia. So it then all made sense. Using Malin’s (probably deliberately) bad data as a constraint, the ESA had generated the Elephant Man version of the Face on Mars.

To his credit, on his own website, Dr. Neukum had not used the MSSS (Malin Space Science Systems) generated version but instead generated his own 3D perspective views of the Face. Not too surprisingly, they did not include the infamous “hump.”

But what (to us) is even more intriguing, is what they did include…

In Nuekum’s 3D images of the Face, certain details can be seen where none has been seen before. In all previous close-ups of the Face taken by Malin Space Science Systems, the area around the lower left (Western) “chin” and the lower left section of the base slope are mysteriously absent of any significant detail (see the “hump” image, above).


This results in odd blurry areas on this part of the Face, similar to other strange blurry areas we have noted on some other images of Cydonia over the years. Histogram comparisons show that these areas contain far less detail than other portions of the images. Curiously, these blank-blurry areas seem to be quite rare in the MOC images of other parts of Mars, but appear to be quite common in the Cydonia images.

In short, I’ve never trusted them.

What Neukum’s new color images - both 2D and 3D – now convince me of is that I have been right to be suspicious all along.


A side-by-side comparison of Neukum’s 2D color image and the latest “high resolution view” of the Face from JPL’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show the that there is a significant discrepancy in the details of these areas of the Face.

The Face from Mars Express (color, scaled up, right), and from MRO (scaled down left).

Note that the blurry areas in the supposedly higher resolution MRO image are less detailed than the comparable areas of the Mars Express image.

(Laney Space Imaging\Bara\ESA\NASA\JPL).

In the MRO image – as with all of the NASA\JPL\MSSS images of the Face, we see these odd, cloud-like blurry areas around the South-Western portions of the Face.


In the color Mars Express images (which are the only images of the Face from cameras not controlled by NASA) these areas appear much like the rest of the Face, showing fine structure and hinting at the possibility of structural details which might be seen at higher resolutions.


In fact, the 3D image of this part of the Face from Nuekum’s own website shows these areas specifically, and the “cloudy bits” are nowhere to be seen…

In fact, what you do see are structural rebar, tubes, girders and the like, reaching up from the Cydonia plain to attach themselves to the base platform of the Face.


The area around the chin is less distinct, but you can plainly see it is not the drab, featureless blur as it is always depicted in the NASA data.

Now, I would not begin to compare the resolution of the MRO camera to that of HRSC on the Mars Express.

  • But isn’t it interesting that the only dataset which is not under the control of Michael Malin and his NASA\JPL buddies is so discrepant from the NASA dataset in this area?

  • And considering that the Western half of the Face is bound to be more eroded (due to the predominantly Western winds of the region), wouldn’t this side logically be the area where the underpinnings of the Face’s internal artificial structure, if it had them, would be most obviously exposed?

You bet it would.

  • So, is that why they had to produce the “Elephant Man” version of the Face, and blank out the other areas in the MRO data?

  • Will we be forever dependent on outside sources for “real” data on Cydonia, or will NASA and JPL ever give us the clean, straight up ground truth on Cydonia?

  • And how subject to pressure will NASA’s partners, like the ESA (who felt compelled to accompany this new image release with the usual political tripe about the Face) be?

It’s sad to have to paraphrase former Secretary of State George Shultz again, but… the “Elephant Man” doesn’t change my opinion of NASA’s integrity; it only confirms it.