The deluge of high-res photos coming back from the Mars Curiosity rover is a treasure trove for scientists, conspiracy theorists and UFOlogists alike. The combination of the social-media age and easier access than ever to our multiple eyes on space (whether the solar observatory or Rosetta) has led to a new golden age in UFO/alien/conspiracy spotting online. New "evidence" seems to pop up weekly on small blogs, and even larger sites like Examiner.com. I've rounded up some of the wackier "sightings" of the past year in this gallery, starting with the above shot from Curiosity, which clearly shows a thigh bone on the Red Planet... unless of course it's just a rock.
Related article: 8 space theories you won't believe other people believe
An interview with a man claiming to be former Lockheed Martin scientist Boyd Bushman surfaced shortly after his death in August. In it, he goes into remarkable detail about his work at Area 51 and interactions with aliens, including photos like the one above. Most incredibly, Bushman claims more than a dozen aliens currently work for the US government. Snopes.com has declared the video a hoax, pointing out that the alien figure shown looks an awful lot like a toy on sale at Walmart. The interview has since been pulled off YouTube, but you can watch some clips here.
A UFO blog with a Belgian domain picked out what looks a little bit like a sideways petroglyph on a rock from a photo captured by the Curiosity rover on Mars, suggesting that it looks an awful lot like some inscriptions on columns from ancient Egypt.
As evidence for ancient Martians, this is about as strong as supporting the notion of gods living in the sky with last night's cloud that totally looked like a dude with a beard.
Perhaps the easiest way to set conspiracy theorists afire is to send an unmanned Air Force space plane into orbit for two years and keep its mission and purpose classified. Most of the public theories about what the X-37B did during its continuous two-year flight have to do with spying and national security, but there are also those that think the craft was looking for aliens, commandeering abandoned alien bases on other planets or flying around communicating with extraterrestrials.
Earlier this year, during the crazed, media-fueled search for the Malaysia Airlines jet that went missing, conspiracy theorists again jumped into the void. Some claimed that radar readings showed a UFO interfered with the flight, while others suggested it might have been swallowed by a black hole. Also, Vladimir Putin is a perfect clone of Hitler (one of 94!).
In recent months, UFOlogists have pointed out multiple cases of weird things appearing in video feeds from the International Space Station, like the spherical object in the shot above that appears for a few minutes before the feed cuts out. NASA has for the most part remained mum, but in the past astronauts have noted that light and other particles floating around space can play tricks on the eyes and photographic equipment. One such incident actually occurred during a space walk, but I've yet to hear the panicked audio tape of astronauts shouting, "What the $#% is that thing?"
Shortly after the European lander Philae touched the surface of a comet earlier this month, an anonymous "ESA whistle-blower" sent around an email claiming the comet was actually anything but and that the Rosetta mission was all about making contact with extraterrestrials, perhaps by a rendezvous at this secret spacecraft/base posing as a big rock. There seems to be little evidence outside this lone unsigned email for the claim, unless perhaps you count the comet's "song" as evidence.
NASA's solar observatory catches lots of spectacular solar flares, and -- sometimes other things. According to UFO Sightings Daily, the abnormality in this image is some sort of craft orbiting the sun...really, really close to the sun. This would seem to present all kinds of problems, but clearly most aliens seem to know what they're doing when it comes to this kind of thing.