Weird! NASA’s Curiosity rover captured a bizarre image of a doorway on Mars.
The photo was captured on May 7 by the Curiosity rover’s Mastcam. The grainy black-and-white image gives the conspiracy theorists ammunition. But we can determine with almost certainty that it is not the entrance to an underground alien society. Unfortunately! But it is a special photo.
Doorway on Mars
Though it looks like the entrance to an alien tomb, mission scientists say it’s a natural feature.
“It’s just the space between two fractures in a rock,” Ashwin Vasavada told Gizmodo in a phone call yesterday. Vasavada is a project scientist at the Mars Science Laboratory and he said the formation is definitely not an entrance. “We passed through an area formed from ancient sand dunes,” he said. These sand dunes were cemented together over time, creating the sandstone outcrops that Curiosity passes by.
Also, the break is not big at all. Once compacted, these sand dunes have been buried and unburied over time as the sand shifted on the surface of Mars. During this process, the sandstone was under varying pressures, causing it to buckle and fracture in several places. “The fractures we see in this area are generally vertical,” Vasavada explained. This particular fracture in the shape of a doorway probably originated in two ways.
“I think we’re talking about either two vertical fractures here, with the center piece removed, or a vertical fracture, and the blocks have shifted a little bit apart,” Vasavada said.
The Curiosity rover has been orbiting Mars since landing in Gale Crater in August 2012. The rover has since traveled 27.84 kilometers in 3,472 Martian days, or “sols.” When Curiosity isn’t collecting rock and soil samples, it takes photos with its panoramic Mastcam (mast + camera).