'Woman' in Mars rover pic is not quite as she appears

What looks like a mysterious figure in a Mars photo gets the Internet excited; CNET's Eric Mack asks NASA what the space agency makes of it all.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
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Eric Mack
2 min read

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Can you spot the Martian? JPL/NASA/Circle added by Eric Mack/CNET

Update, 5:35 p.m. PT: CNET has come across different photographic evidence to put this "discovery" in perspective. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom to check it out.

If you believe that fluffy cloud that looks exactly like a rhinoceros wearing a tutu really is a live, dancing pachyderm in the sky, then there's a photo from Mars I want you to see.

Over the past several weeks, the photo here has slowly been working its way around UFO enthusiast and alien conspiracy forums, where the circled figure has been analyzed and some have reached the conclusion that it shows a humanoid figure in a dress standing lookout on a rocky Martian outcropping.

The below video even goes to great pains to suggest that one light streak in the soil could actually be a footpath to the woman's "house" (which certainly looks like an ordinary rock to me).

I called up the press office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, home to mission control for the Curiosity rover team, and spoke to Guy Webster, who handles media requests related to Mars exploration.

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Webster told me that he wasn't familiar with the Martian woman his team had "discovered," but that he fields requests almost every day involving amateurs who believe they've identified signs of life in the massive archive of publicly available images sent back from Mars.

"It's really easy to pick out rocks or other things that look like something else in pictures like this," he told me, and then he offered to look for a JPL scientist to analyze the photo to see what might actually explain the feminine figure.

There's been no word back yet from those scientists, but I'll update this post when they offer an explanation. It might be awhile -- they're probably still busy analyzing that Martian crab and jelly doughnut.

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Note the wheel at lower right and the circled "woman." NASA/JPL Annotated by Eric Mack/CNET

While waiting around to hear back from NASA, I started poking around some of the other photos that Curiosity took on the same day (May 31, 2015), and I came across the below image of the same scene. You'll notice that this shot was taken from a slightly different angle using the rover's right navigation camera, which allowed it to also catch a part of one of the rover's wheels in the frame.

This provides a sense of scale that the original photo of the "woman" doesn't, allowing us to see that if there really is a Martian humanoid in the shot, she'd have to be about the size of a pebble.

But I've never met a Martian, so I suppose it's possible they're much smaller than us. Perhaps " Innerspace" wasn't science fiction after all.