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Why Some Scientists Worried About Interest in Aliens and the “Face” on Mars

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1976 was a historic year for Americans. A contentious U.S. election was underway between incumbent Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, his Democratic challenger. It was also the year of the bicentennial, as the United States celebrated two centuries since its founding. And like NASA had done less than a decade before by putting men on the moon, in September of that year the space agency would seek to make history again, as the Viking 2 mission went speeding toward the Red Planet in an attempt to place an unmanned lander on Martian soil.

In the humid summer months preceding the successful Viking 2 mission, its predecessor, Viking 1, had already been in orbit around Mars, sending back a constant stream of photographs which NASA scientists planned to use to help them locate a suitable landing site for Viking 2. On July 25th, the usual batch of images were being received and processed, when a peculiar geological feature of the planet began to reveal itself.

One of the photos depicted a sloping prominence, befitted with a number of depressions and rock formations that, casting hard shadows and observed under the sharp contrast of Viking 1’s photography, bore an obvious likeness to a human face.

Some thought little of it, chalking the ghostly visage staring back at the orbiting Viking 1’s cameras as being merely an instance of pareidolia—the natural tendency of the human eye to assemble familiar shapes and images from random features in nature.

Most who observed the area depicted in the photograph probably thought this, in fact. Although it is hard to imagine that there weren’t some, at least—or perhaps even several—who hadn’t cautiously entertained the other possibility: what if there had been a civilization on Mars at one time? And if so, what if this gloomy face befitted upon an odd, polygonal mountain in the Cydonia region, might actually be some remnant of that civilization?

It wasn’t long before NASA determined that the “face” on Mars was, in fact, a natural formation. In their own words, upon releasing the image publicly just days later, the space agency described a “huge rock formation in the center… which resembled a human head.”

The famous photograph from Viking 2 in 1976, which spurred debate over a “Face on Mars” (Credit: NASA).

The image was, of course, enough to get people talking, whether or not they believed NASA’s determination about the photograph. Many found it impossible to believe that the likeness of the curious features in the photograph to a human face could be pure coincidence. The hope for discovery of life on Mars had already been a source of great anticipation: now an eager public was nearly sold on the idea, but instead of microbes, hoped that within the coming months there would be irrefutable evidence of life on the planet in the form of archaeological traces of a civilization that once lived there.

Interestingly, some scientists were concerned about the emphasis being placed on the search for life on Mars. “There is also a fear that if too much emphasis is placed on the possibility of life and none is then found, as still seems likely, the public will consider the mission a futile failure,” a New York Times article reported on July 22, 1976, just three days before the photos of Cydonia returned to Earth depicting what many believed to be a face.

However, if the famous “face on Mars” had indeed been such, it would raise a number of hard questions. Chief among them is: how could a feature like this—if artificial, as many claimed—have lasted for the untold amounts of time that passed before Viking 1 arrived… especially considering how much it appears to have weathered in the few decades since that time?

While the 1976 photographs remain the most famous ones of the region depicting an alleged face, NASA has released numerous additional photos of the location over the years, captured during ensuing missions (which is interesting in itself, since it shows that there was at least a modicum of interest in the unusual collection of features). However, as we can see in the photos below, NASA’s infamous face didn’t appear to age very well:

By 1996, the “face” looked a lot more like a pile of rocks (Credit: NASA).

Arguably, the more perplexing element to the region where the Martian “face” appears is not the rocky places that form what many liken to eyes, a nose, and a mouth, but the odd, almost geometric shape of the outcrop itself. According to Space.com, “The rocky outcropping that creates the illusion is approximately a mile across and bears a resemblance to buttes or mesas from the American West. It likely formed from a combination of landslides and collected debris.”

Additionally, the differences between the 1976 and 1998 photos are actually greater than those between the first photos, and some of the most recent, in which the face-like details appear to have returned, although only slightly: 

 

Perhaps what is most fascinating about all of this is people’s desire to look for unusual things on barren, alien worlds. Rather than aliens, or simply a desire to believe in them, people’s interpretations of Martian “anomalies” seems to say an awful lot about us.

I’m reminded of a story my grandmother told me once as a child. Often at night, she and her siblings would become very frightened by the sound of loud crashes that came from the back of their family home. Occurring only at night, they would emanate from the back of the home, the portion facing the forest at the edge of their property. Naturally, they began to believe that an animal—or perhaps something else—had been appearing and pounding on the house at night. Several years later, she laughed about how she finally learned that the thick slabs of pine in the walls would creak and pop as they cooled at night, no monsters necessary.

In much the same way that some people interpret random, natural events as evidence of “supernatural” happenings, people seem to both enjoy, and at times even display a need to look for structured things in environments where none should exist. In years since, similar “anomalies” have continued to appear on Mars, which range from odd structures and other alleged “manmade” features, to sightings of Bigfoot.

So let’s face it: that famous “face on Mars” was never really a face at all. Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t other “faces” that have been spotted on the Red Planet… 

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Fact or fiction

Woman captures a strange figure while on a video call to her best friend

Lori –  who claims to have been home alone at the time – said her ‘heart stopped’ after she replayed the chilling footage and witnessed a dark figure dash in and out behind her while she spoke to Shana. 

The store manager said: “I’d only just moved into my apartment, so I was video chatting with my friend to show her around and I was just talking about general things. It was nothing out of the ordinary. 

“We were using an app called Marco Polo, which is like a video walkie talkie. You can hit the start button to record, and others can watch you in real time like a regular video call. You can then replay it. 

“But all of a sudden, her face got really serious and she asked if someone was in the house with me.

“I live alone but I instantly looked around because it was so weird the way she said it and it really frightened me. 

“I told her I was home alone. She looked pretty shocked and told me to watch my video again to see what I thought. She said it was like someone was following me around the house. 

“So I watched it, and my heart jumped into my throat. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. 

“It was so scary. It sent chills down my spine, and just shocked me so much. 

“I’ve had lots of paranormal experiences in my life, but nothing quite like this.

“I’ve only cried twice in my entire life from things that I’ve seen, but this did make me cry.”

Lori said she was so frightened by what she saw that she decided to stay at her daughter’s house for the night – and the next day had the house ‘cleaned and blessed’ by a spiritual friend.  

The mum added her new house, which was built in 1935, is located in the oldest part of town and is situated right next to both a hospital from the early 1800s and a nursing home. 

Lori believes the figure to be the ghost of a ‘prankster’ teenage boy – but is also open to the idea of it being an alien. 

And despite the horrifying ordeal, the mum is determined to stay in her new home.

She said: “I showed the video to people at my work and they actually screamed. That scared me, to see their reactions. 

“I believe it was the spirit of a teenage boy, maybe 13 or 14 years old. 

“But many people have said they think it’s an alien. I definitely believe in aliens, so it’s certainly a possibility. 

“People have told me to move out, but you can’t run from these types of things.”

Jewellery maker Shana, 46, was on the video chat with her best friend Lori at the time and said she ‘couldn’t believe her eyes’ when the figure appeared. 

She added: “I seriously thought someone was walking behind her, like a human child. 

“I watched this all happen in real time on the app. I saw this thing peek around the corner at me as if to see if we were still talking. 

“I’ve watched this video probably 1000 times and it still creeps me out. I kind of felt like it wanted to be seen, almost playful.  

“I believe it was the spirit of someone who has passed and wants to be acknowledged. 

“It was very startling to see. I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Source: New Idea

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Crashed Israeli Lunar lander Likely Left Thousands of Tardigrades on the Moon

When Israeli lunar lander Beresheet crash-landed onto the Moon in April, watched live by millions across the world, the spacecraft left a rather serious dent in the lunar surface.

According to a report published Monday by American magazine Wired, however, Beresheet may have left more on the Moon than previously thought. The SpaceIL spacecraft was apparently carrying thousands of microscopic tardigrades, also known as “little water bears,” which are among the most resilient animals known to man.

The tardigrades, only 0.5mm in length when fully grown, joined the lunar-destined journey as part of an initiative led by the Arch Mission Foundation, founded by Nova Spivack.

Aiming to maintain a backup of planet Earth around the Solar System, Beresheet carried the foundation’s lunar library – a tiny 30-million page archive of human history and civilization, human DNA samples and a few thousand dehydrated tardigrades.

Based on the foundation’s analysis of the spacecraft’s trajectory and the composition of their lunar library, Spivack told Wired that he was quite confident that their payload mostly or entirely survived the impact.

Engineers lost contact with the spacecraft only minutes before it was due to complete the historic lunar landing on April 11, making a high-velocity crash-landing inevitable. Reaching the moon was a feat previously completed only by the United States, Russia (then the USSR) and China, backed by giant sums far exceeding Beresheet’s modest NIS 350 million ($99m.) budget.

“For the first 24 hours, we were just in shock,” Spivack said. “We sort of expected that it would be successful. We knew there were risks but we didn’t think the risks were that significant.”

Known for their resilience, a 2007 European Space Agency experiment showed that tardigrades are able to survive space exposure. Some 3,000 organisms joined a 12-day journey into space on-board the agency’s Foton-M3 mission, and survived conditions that would kill humans in minutes.

If the dehydrated tardigrades survived the landing, Spivack added, they could hypothetically be revived in years to come by future human astronauts upon their return to Earth. Research has previously shown that dehydrated micro-animals can be revived decades later.

While SpaceIL and its lead donor, Morris Kahn, quickly stated their ambition following the Beresheet crash to launch a second spacecraft to the Moon within two years, the organization announced in June that reattempting the same mission would not present a sufficiently great challenge.

If some lunar enthusiasts might have been disappointed by the announcement, SpaceIL co-founder Kfir Damari told The Jerusalem Post in July that the decision is about broadening their horizons even further.

“It’s possible that we will return to the Moon, but we won’t give a green light to the same project with the same design,” Damari said.

“We decided that we want to look for different options – maybe to go to the Moon and come back or to take something special with us. We’re also thinking about other places, including the ability to go beyond the Moon.”

It remains to be seen whether SpaceIL’s next mission will include taking even more tardigrades to the Moon, or perhaps even beyond.

Eytan Halon
Jerusalem Post

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Screaming Skulls: England Tales of this Paranormal Phenomena

Some English families kept skulls in their homes, which, according to legend or documentation have a life of their own. Each skull screamed when its person’s dying wishes weren’t met. Once, they were respected, the skulls were silent.

Could it be ghosts? Could it be contrived tales meant to send shivers? Paranormal reality or fantasy? Below are some of the most famous English screaming skulls… Draw your own conclusions.

Burton Agnes Manor

Ann Griffith, of Yorkshire, was murdered. Her dying wish was that her head be buried in her home. It wasn’t. Shortly after interment, strange noises occurred in the house. Her sisters suspected it was Ann protesting her wishes weren’t met.

The family exhumed the body, oddly, the skull was detached. They took the skull into the house. All was quiet. When the Boynton family inherited the house, they removed the skull. Disturbances began again. The skull was replaced in the house. The noises stopped.

The Bettiscombe Manor

Local legend is that Azariah Pinney brought a West Indian slave to Dorset. While the slave lay dying, he said he would haunt Bettiscombe until his body was buried in his native land.

He was interred in the local churchyard. People heard screams emanating from his grave and strange noises in the manor house. They stopped when the body was disinterred, but attempts to bury it resulted in the same phenomena.

Finally, the skeleton was lost, but the skull remained, so it was placed in the house. It stopped screaming.

Tunstead Farm

The skull, called Dickie, is believed to belong to a woman who haunts Tunstead, near Chapel-en-le-Frith. The ghost first appeared in the late 1800s as an omen of the death of the tenant’s daughter.

Dickie allegedly guards the house by making noises and rappings when strangers approach, as a death omen of a family member and announcing animals’ births or illness. Once her skull was stolen and taken to Disley. There were rackets at both Tunstead and Disley.

The thieves were so scared that they returned it. Similar disturbances happened after the skull was buried in consecrated ground. As long as Dickie’s skull remains in the house, there are no phenomena.

The Wardley Hall

This one, dating back to Edward VI’s reign, rests near Manchester. Legend: Roger Downes, dissolute family member who owned the house, got drunk, said he would kill someone and tangled with a watchman. His intended victim fought back and severed Downes’ head.

When people tried to burn or drown the skull in the moat, there were disturbances, primarily intense storms. Legend has been debunked and replaced by actual occurrences, according to a book about Wardley Hall’s history. Before the religious persecutions against Catholics, Francis Downes and his wife, devout Catholics, owned Wardley Hall.

Benedictine Monk, Dom Edward Ambrose Barlow, successfully eluded persecution by the authorities until met his fate on Easter, 1641. He was conducting a mass when he was seized, “tried” and executed.

His head was impaled. Downs took it to Wardley and secreted it so well that it wasn’t found until the mid 1700s when owner Matthew Moreton accidentally discovered it. A servant thought it was an animal’s skull and threw it into the moat.

That night, there was a terrible storm. Moreton thought it was the skull protesting and demanding to be returned to the house. He drained the moat, recovered it and put it back in the hall. All became quiet again.

Legend? Paranormal Phenomena?

Legends, frauds, flights of macabre fantasies? But, there are documented cases of paranormal phenomena being associated with objects, so why not a skull? Curious, eh?

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