For decades conspiracy theorists have accused the government of hiding evidence of aliens or imminent world disasters, but could the governments of the world actually be planning to fake an apocalypse? Tune in to learn more about Project Blue Beam.
Talk about voxels and cones too dry to pique your interest in real-time lighting tech? Then have a peek at this re-creation of the lunar landing from last week’s GAME24 livestream, which convincingly proves that man actually did set foot on the moon.
Total sarcasm. This video is based on a real conspiracy that i just had to mock. I hope you enjoy it.
Watch this video ONLY if you want to HEAR the TROOF! This is absolute, undeniable pwoof the Apollo moon landings were hoaxed. This evidence is incontrovertible. Share this video!!!
Did you know Mars is NOT reddish in color? It’s true. It looks just like earth!!! Mars has earth colored soil and a beautiful blue sky – just like Hawaii!
As one conspiracy website put it –
This is very interesting. It may come as a surprise to many readers that Mars looks very much like Earth. It’s not red or orange – NASA applies a lens to tint the pictures or they release black and white photos… here’s a real color picture of Mars… blue sky and all… it gets to the point where you ask yourself “what does the government not lie about?”
They included this image as proof:
I can’t believe anybody would believe Mars looks like earth. But i’ll push forward simply for the entertainment value and because there is some interesting facts to be learned – stuff i didn’t know. I love everything space related.
Two facts about Mars:
So while the Romans and the Egyptians knew Mars appeared red simply by looking up into the night sky, today’s conspiracists insist our belief that Mars is red is actually a false belief perpetuated by a government coverup.
Maybe i am endowed with an abundance of common sense but couldn’t these conspiracists step outside their mother’s basement, look up into the night sky and see what Mars looks like to the naked eye? I’m just saying.
But i digress …
So i decided to pursue this absurdity to another level. I took the photo featured on the conspiracy website and i decided to find out where it came from. I found the original photo at the NASA website. It really wasn’t hard to find (Even a conspiracist could have found it). I then superimposed the conspiracy picture next to the original NASA photo. The conspiracy photo is on the left, the original NASA image is on the right:
When you adjust the color on your television set, you do so by picking something on the screen that you know should be a certain color (such as grass should be green) and you adjust your set accordingly. This is a form of calibration. You used the color of the grass as a reference point. Instruments that go to Mars also need to be calibrated so that scientists receive accurate information. There has to be a known reference — a calibration target.
The rover’s calibration targets are objects with known properties. For example, the Pancam calibration target. It is in the shape of a sundial and is mounted on the rover deck. Pancam will image the sundial many times during the mission so that scientists can adjust the images they receive from Mars. They use the colored blocks in the corners of the sundial to calibrate the color in images of the martian landscape. Pictures of the shadows that are cast by the sundial’s center post allow scientists to properly adjust the brightness of each Pancam image. Children provided artwork for the sides of the base of the sundial.
This is the same process used by Hollywood movie makers. They use a device called a “clapper board” to mark the beginning of a scene or a “take.” I’m sure you’ve seen this used in the movies. Well, at the top of some clapper boards you will see a rainbow of colors. Like the Pancam calibration target on the Mars rover, the colors along the top of the clapper board provide a known color reference that can be used in post production by movie editors to ensure the colors in the final cut are “true” to what was recorded on the movie set.
Speaking of “true colors,” let’s get back to why NASA would choose to creat “false color” photos along with “true color” photos. It’s really not as mysterious as it might sound. Let’s start with a technical definition of both:
An image is called a “true-color” image when it offers a natural color rendition, or when it comes close to it. This means that the colors of an object in an image appear to a human observer the same way as if this observer were to directly view the object: A green tree appears green in the image, a red apple red, a blue sky blue, and so on.[source]
False color refers to a group of color rendering methods used to display images in color which were recorded in the visual or non-visual parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. A false-color image is an image that depicts an object in colors that differ from those a photograph (a “true-color” image) would show. [source]
Here is a classic example of a false color image: A forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera (the image to the right). By creating a representation of wavelengths normally invisible to the human eye, we are able to discern the different temperatures present in this scene.
But there are a multitude of reasons for creating false images. Sometimes colors are enhanced, or even added, to represent some characteristic in the image, such as chemical composition, velocity, distance or to simply enhance the differences between materials. Have you ever increased the contrast on your television or an image on your computer so you can better discern some detail? You’ve just created your own false image!!
The same goes for the moon and Mars. With both planets being mostly uniform in their respective colors, creating false images can help us distinguish something as simple as peaks and valleys. Here is an example using the moon:
On the left side is the true color image of the far side of our moon, a mosaic constructed from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images. This is what you would see if you were to directly observe the terrain. Given the uniform color it is very difficult, if not impossible, to accurately judge the peaks and valleys.
On the right side is a false color image of the same side of our moon, a topographic map of the altitude of the Moon’s surface obtained by the Clementine orbiter mission (1994). Measurements made with a laser altimiter. Redder areas are higher, blue/purple areas lower. [source] (more Clementine images here)
In this instance a false color image was generated of the moon to provide a clear, visual representation of the lunar topography.
In the false color Mars image used at the conspiracy website, it’s very possible NASA color corrected the image for no other reason than to better distinguish the size, shape and locations of the rocks.
The bottom line is, Mars is reddish in color and the moon appears gray. Period. End of story.
I guess my bigger question concerning this conspiracy is, why would the government have any interest in covering up the real color of Mars or the moon (yes, there is a conspiracy out there that the government is covering up the real color of the moon)? I suspect it has something to do with the belief Mars and the moon are actually inhabitable and the Mars/moon color coverup is part of the government’s alien/UFO coverup.
- Mars Exploration Rover Mission (NASA JPL)
- Spacecraft: Surface Operations: Instruments (NASA JPL)
- The Clementine Mission (Lunar and Planetary Institute)
- False color/True Color (Wikipedia)
- Mars, Facts and Information about the Planet Mars (space.com)
- What Is Mars? (NASA)
- Why does Mars look red from Earth? (NASA)
- Big Picture on Mars: NASA Rover Snaps Amazing Red Planet View (space.com)
- Panoramas: Opportunity (NASA JPL)
- Panoramas: Spirit (NASA JPL)
- Mars Rover “Spirit” Images (NASA)
Space is full of unexplored mysteries and secrets. Despite Mankind’s achievements in Space Exploration, we have barely scratched the surface of what lies in deep space. Here are the 10 Biggest Space Conspiracies Of All Time.
Top 10 Craziest Conspiracy Theories About the ILLUMINATI
These theories are purely abstract and without hard evidence to support them … they cannot be proven.
Joe and Neil discuss a wide variety of topics, including the flat earth conspiracy theory.
VSauce blows my mind. I love it. 🙂
The Life and Times of the Moon Hoax Conspiracy
Yes, it’s a 3-part Skeptoid episode, the first one ever, and it took more than 500 episodes to get me to finally address the moon landing hoax conspiracy. To those who follow science, the claims that we never went to the moon are the most tiresome and foolish of the conspiracy theories; but to those who believe them, they are absolute religion, and the ultimate token of their conviction that anything coming from official sources is a lie. Today we’re going to begin our in-depth analysis of the Moon Landing Conspiracy, of those who believe in it, and a survey of the facts and figures of the basic narrative.
Today we’re going to talk about the history and cultural impact of the claim; next week we’ll go into the most popular evidentiary claims said to prove that we never went to the moon (hopefully including some you haven’t heard before); and in the final installment, we’ll look at the hard physical proof that we did go.
The basic narrative of the Moon Truth conspiracy theory, as you probably know, is that NASA faked the Apollo missions and nobody ever actually went to the moon. As with most conspiracy theories, there are all sorts of variations on the claims of what actually did happen, while the only thing they have in common is that no men actually landed on the moon. Some believe the Apollo missions orbited the moon but did not land; some believe they never went farther than Earth orbit; some believe the Apollo spacecraft flew but were unmanned; some believe they never launched anything at all. The astronauts performed their moonwalks on a movie set, and fake transmissions were provided to the TV networks for broadcast. The reasons given for why the government would have gone to all this trouble range from simply distracting Americans’ attention from the unpopular war in Vietnam, to fooling the Soviets into thinking they lost the Cold War, to protecting NASA’s budget by appearing to spend it on something supremely impressive.
A big question we have to answer is what’s the point of even talking about this? The people who believe it have already heard the science-based responses to their claims a hundred times, and rejected them a hundred times. Their minds are riveted shut to anything but their preferred narrative. We’ll not be changing any of their minds today. And the rest of us aren’t in denial, and aren’t asking these made-up, shoehorned questions that try to raise doubt where none exists. So who is this episode for, nobody?
Well, maybe for somebody. Polling data has, for decades, consistently shown that some 6-7% of Americans believe the moon landings were faked; and even scarier, about four times as many Europeans agree with them. That’s a lot more people than the hardcore YouTube-obsessed serial conspiracists; it includes tens of millions of ordinary folks who are otherwise as rational as you or I. It seems there must be something deeply compelling about this odd belief.
Claims that the Moon landing was faked or that lizard people are taking over the world might seem harmless and even humorous, but philosopher Patrick Stokes argues that every conspiracy theory comes with a moral cost.
Earlier this year, the world marked the 30th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the loss of all seven crew. With the public captivated by the story of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, some 17 per cent of the entire American population watched in horror as Challenger exploded live on television.
Except it didn’t really happen. The tragedy was faked. At least six of the astronauts are alive and well and hiding in plain sight. Why, they’re even still using their real names, or variations thereof. Sharon Christa McAuliffe is now Sharon A. McAuliffe, an adjunct professor of law at Syracuse University. The public has been duped by a massive conspiracy for three decades, one finally exposed thanks to intrepid amateur sleuths scouring the internet for clues.
These claims are, needless to say, utter hogwash; the evidence offered is not merely flimsy, but laughable. (At least two of the people alleged to be Challenger survivors are actually siblings of Challenger crewmembers). And what sort of conspirators would fake their own deaths in front of millions of viewers but then keep their real names?
Even so, it’s yet another illustration of the pervasiveness of conspiracy theory as a social practice—and the widespread desire to believe in them. If you think this all sounds like some fringe belief that nobody could buy into, consider this: for this theory to hold, NASA would have had to somehow keep a conspiracy involving thousands of people secret for three decades. Yet upwards of 6 per cent of Americans believe that NASA pulled off the far greater feat of faking the moon landings.
The Internet is polluted with craziness, and there is no better example than YouTube. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen when you give everyone on the planet the power to show everyone else on the planet their innermost thoughts, desires, and insane ramblings, you need only look at YouTube.
One of the biggest offenders of incoherent ramblings is the subject of spaceflight. Simply search ‘space shuttle’ on YouTube, and you’ll find accusations of the crew of Columbia being abducted by aliens. Crazy, incoherent, and somewhat insulting. Accusations of a moon landing conspiracy are unavoidable in the ‘related videos’ section and are similarly filled with videos from people with either a tenuous grasp of reality or too much time on their hands.
A broken clock is right twice a day, a broken calendar is right every twenty-eight years or so, and every once in a while, simply from the volume of videos on the subject, one conspiracy theorist will present a new and novel idea. Here we present perhaps the only moon landing conspiracy theory that makes sense, is consistent with physical laws, and that may actually be true.
Comparing other government conspiracies
One of the best ways to figure out what it would take to pull off a project is to compare it to earlier, similar projects. If you’re building a 100-storey skyscraper and need a good idea of how long construction will take, just look at how long it took to build the last 100-storey skyscraper. If you want to build a dam and wonder how much it will cost, just look at earlier, similar dams that used the same construction methods and materials.
The Apollo moon landing conspiracy contends that 400,000 government workers and contractors would need to keep quiet, and no inquisitive journalists would be out in the trenches, digging for the truth. This government conspiracy would ostensibly be headed by none other than Richard Nixon, and fortunately we have a pretty good analog to compare a moon landing conspiracy to other Nixon-era conspiracies. Watergate-gate, with far fewer people involved, was found out. It strains credibility that a conspiracy many orders of magnitude larger would not be uncovered.
Additionally, there are many other nefarious activities sponsored by the US government that have been made public. The MK Ultra experiments dosed hundreds of people including Ted Kaczynski and Sirhan Sirhan with LSD. Not all of the records were destroyed, though, and the entire experiment was disclosed in 1977 with a FOIA request. The US Public Health Service infected people with syphilis, and the CIA is responsible for overthrowing dozens of governments around the world. All of these conspiracies were eventually found out. The very idea that researchers, academics, and journalists are unable to pierce the veil of a moon landing conspiracy over forty years strains credibility.
There is one government project on the scale of the Apollo moon landing that was, for a time, secret: the Manhattan Project. With perhaps 300,000 people involved in the creation of the first atomic bombs, it is the only secret government project with the same scale as NASA in the 1960s. Here, history tells us that secrets that big don’t stay secret for long, with the Soviet Union receiving plans for atomic weapons before the end of the war.
In comparing the scale of an Apollo moon landing conspiracy to other, real conspiracies committed by the US government, the argument completely falls apart. The Tuskegee syphilis experiments involved perhaps a few hundred people. The MK Ultra experiments perhaps a few thousand. Watergate-gate involved less than one hundred. An Apollo moon landing conspiracy would involve nearly a half million over the course of ten years, yet moon landing conspiracists say the largest conspiracy of all time would be the one that succeeded. It doesn’t strain credibility – it completely destroys it.
NASA Faked Mars Landings: Mars Rover Photos Were Taken In Simulated Mars Environment On Devon Island, Canada, According to Conspiracy Theorists
A conspiracy theory fast gaining traction online makes the astounding claim that NASA’s Curiosity and Opportunity rovers never traveled to Mars and that the images of the Martian environment being uploaded to NASA websites were actually taken on a remote island called Devon Island in Canada, the largest uninhabited island on Earth.
According to the rumors making the rounds in the conspiracy theory blogosphere, the pictures being uploaded regularly to NASA’s websites and palmed off as images of the Martian environment are fake images taken on Devon Island in Canada where NASA has set up a landscape identical with the “Martian landscape” we see on photos NASA scientists upload to NASA websites.
Conspiracy theorists claim that the rovers never traveled out to space, let alone land on Mars. Rovers Opportunity and Curiosity are being kept in storage in one of NASA’s facilities. Meanwhile, the agency has deployed two smaller versions of the rovers — “baby rovers” — on Devon Island in Canada.
NASA maintains permanent bases on Devon Island where NASA personnel dressed in mock astronaut suits play around with “baby rovers” fitted with cameras. Conspiracy theorists note that the terrain of the island bears a striking resemblance to the images of the “Martian environment” that NASA uploads to its websites. This makes the island an ideal location on Earth for NASA to stage make-believe Martian environment photo shoots.
There is also evidence, according to conspiracy theorists, that NASA has bases in other remote areas used for simulating Martian environment.
By Jo Rodriguez via Listverse
Is there life elsewhere in the universe? It’s becoming increasingly likely that life must exist somewhere out there, but theories on aliens closer to home have ranged from misguided to idiotic.
10 • Viking Landers Finding Life On Mars
During the ’70s, NASA’s Viking landers probed Martian soil, eagerly looking for signs of life on the Red Planet. While the landers did not find actual microorganisms, traces of carbon dioxide turned up in the collected samples. Some scientists looked at the results and concluded that living organisms had to be on the planet, producing the compound.
The findings have been disputed for decades. Recently, some scientists have concluded that iron particles in Martian soil could have oxidized carbon compounds that exist naturally there.
Though evidence from Viking may not point to current Martians, carbon in the soil may still indicate that life once existed on the planet. Today’s research focuses less on finding living organisms there and more on investigating if the atmosphere could preserve traces of life even after long stretches of time.
9 • Arthur C. Clarke And Martian Vegetation
Beloved author and screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke long believed in life on Mars. In 2001, Clarke downloaded several photos from NASA’s website captured by the Mars Global Surveyor and was delighted to see what he thought were trees.
Clarke spoke to a crowd in his home in Sri Lanka, saying that the pictures showed things that were growing on the planet’s surface. Clarke said, “I’m quite serious when I say I have a really good look at these new Mars images. Something is actually moving and changing with the seasons that suggest, at least, vegetation.” In another interview, he joked, “I’m now convinced that Mars is inhabited by a race of demented landscape gardeners.”
The images were actually simply sand dunes, covered in or affected by frozen carbon dioxide. Over time, dark sand cascades down the dunes, leaving streaks that may look like trees to the less educated eye.
8 • Crazy Experiments To Contact Martians
In 1820, German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss sought to incorporate the work of Pythagoras in his quest to communicate with alien life on Mars. Gauss suggested clearing a large patch of Siberia and planting wheat for miles in a shape that geometrically illustrates the Pythagorean Theorem. By harvest season, the bright yellow crop-filled areas would contrast with the forest’s darker coloring. Gauss believed that Martian observers could spot this gigantic triangle on Earth with a small telescope.
Other odd ideas were also popular during the 19th century. Astronomer Joseph Littrow suggested digging trenches measuring 30 kilometers (20 mi) in length and shaped in various geometric patterns across the Sahara. We’d then fill them with kerosene and light them up. A Frenchman, Charles Cros, suggested building a huge mirror that could focus sunlight and burn messages into the very surface of Mars.
7 • Martians Contact Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla may have been one of the most brilliant scientists in human history, but he also falsely claimed to have received artificial signals of extraterrestrial origin—he said they were from Mars or Venus.
In a letter to the New York Times, Tesla wrote of how Mars, of the two planets, could support life. He viewed the distance of the planets from the Sun in terms of evolution. Venus was at a youthful stage, perhaps unable to fully sustain humanoid life. Earth was at full growth. Mars had reached old age, yet it had passed through prime biological and technological evolutionary stages.
Tesla suggested ways to improve our means to communicate with Mars, first by relocating our observatories to send clearer signals through the atmosphere. In 1937, Tesla’s work led him to believe that he could win the Pierre Guzman Prize of 100,000 francs for “the first person who will find the means of communicating with a star and of receiving a response.” The prize rules excluded contact with Mars, however, because that would have been “too easy.”
The public has never had a chance to analyze Tesla’s supposed observation, but it is likely that he actually detected the pulsing of distant stars. This was far from the intelligent transmission he had claimed to see, but it was still an impressive accomplishment.
NASA predicts that we’ll find life outside our planet, and possibly outside our solar system, within a generation. But where exactly, and what type of life? Is it even wise to make contact with extraterrestrials? The search hasn’t been easy, but these questions may not be theoretical much longer. Here are 10 ways the quest for alien life is getting real.
10 • NASA Predicts Alien Life Will Be Found Within 20 Years
In the words of Matt Mountain, director at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, “Imagine the moment when the world wakes up, and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over . . . It’s within our grasp to pull off a discovery that will change the world forever.”
Using ground and space-based technology, NASA scientists predict that we’ll find alien life in the Milky Way galaxy within the next 20 years. Launched in 2009, the Kepler Space Telescope (pictured) has helped scientists find thousands of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system). Kepler discovers a planet when it crosses in front of a star, causing a small drop in the star’s brightness.
Based on data from Kepler, NASA scientists believe that in our galaxy alone, 100 million planets may be home to alien life. But it’s the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (scheduled for a 2018 launch) that will first give us the capability to indirectly detect life on other planets. The Webb telescope searches for gases in a planet’s atmosphere that are generated by life. The ultimate goal is to find Earth 2.0, a twin to our own planet.
9 • The Alien Life We Find May Not Be Intelligent
The Webb Telescope and its successors will search for biosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets, such as molecular water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. But even if a biosignature is detected, it won’t tell us whether the life on that exoplanet is intelligent or not. Such alien life may be single-celled organisms like amoebas, rather than complex beings that can communicate with us.
We’re also limited in our search for life by our prejudices and lack of imagination. We assume there must be carbon-based life like us, and that we’re the standard by which intelligence is judged. Explaining this failure in creative thought, Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute says, “Scientists don’t go off and think completely wild and crazy things unless they have some evidence that leads them to do that.”
Other scientists such as Peter Ward, coauthor of Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe, believe that intelligent alien life will be short-lived. Ward assumes that other species will have global warming, too many people, no food, and eventual chaos that destroys their civilizations. He foresees the same for us.
8 • Mars May Have Supported Life Before—And May Again
Mars is currently too cold to house liquid water and support life. But NASA’s Opportunity Rover—an all-terrain vehicle that collects and analyzes rocks on Mars—has shown that about four billion years ago, the planet had fresh water and mud that could have supported life.
Another past source of water and possible life sits on the slopes of Mars’s third-tallest volcano, Arsia Mons. Around 210 million years ago, this volcano erupted beneath a vast glacier. The volcano’s heat caused the ice to melt, forming lakes in the glacier like liquid bubbles in a partially frozen ice cube. The lakes may have existed long enough for microbial life to have formed there.
It’s possible that some simple organisms on Earth may be able to survive on Mars today. Methanogens, for example, use hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce methane, and don’t need oxygen, organic nutrients, or light. They’re able to survive temperature extremes such as those found during Martian freeze-thaw cycles. So when scientists found methane in Mars’ atmosphere in 2004, they questioned whether methanogens already inhabit the subsurface of Mars.
As we travel to Mars, though, scientists are concerned that we may contaminate the planet’s environment with microorganisms from Earth. That may make it difficult to determine whether life forms found on Mars originated there.
One of my favorite conspiracy theories to debate is “chemtrails.” The factual explanations behind the puffy white lines are so fabulously simple, you’ve got to marvel at those who harbor this preposterous notion. Entertain no fear, intelligent reader, as this conspiracy can only be held by the least scientific among us. To argue with chembelievers is to feel both frustration and bewilderment manifest.
You’ll hear the battle cry of the Chemtrailers: “Wake up! Look up!” soliciting you to abandon your ability to research for the blind acceptance of anecdotal opinion. We live in a world where information is so readily accessible for anyone who chooses to pursue it. The challenge comes in vetting sources, and this seems to be the trap in to which Chemtrailers fall. They want so badly to be right about being sprayed, they will use any source available that serves their confirmation bias.
Contrails, as they’re known by the scientifically literate among us, are quite simply explained. In fact, NASA does quite a good job of expounding it:
“Contrails are clouds formed when water vapor condenses and freezes around small particles (aerosols) that exist in aircraft exhaust. Some of that water vapor comes from the air around the plane; and, some is added by the exhaust of the aircraft. The exhaust of an aircraft contains both gas (vapor) and solid particles. Both of these are important in the formation of contrails. Some elements of the exhaust gasses are not involved in contrail formation but do constitute air pollution. Emissions include carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons such as methane, sulfates (SOx), and soot and metal particles.” 
Now the fun part…
“THERE’S CHEMIKILLS IN MY AIR.”
The quintessential Chemtrailer will claim that there are a host of chemicals being sprayed on us. In my experience, the most common particulates mentioned are aluminum, strontium, and barium. If these were being littered upon us in such volume as to cause detriment to our health, they would be easily detectable in soil and air samples yet, not surprisingly, no proof has been offered from any laboratory to date. Ask the conspiracy theorists to provide one; they can’t and they won’t.
“CONTRAILS DISSIPATE, BUT CHEMTRAILS DON’T.”
Some of the conspiracy theorists don’t want to seem as crazy and so they’ll justify their position by saying that chemtrails stay in the sky for hours while contrails dissipate quickly.
By Benjamin Radford via LiveScience
California’s remote, beautiful, and foreboding Death Valley has held a mystery for almost a century: it has stones that seem to move on their own, when no one is looking. It happens at Racetrack Playa, a dry lakebed known for its “sailing stones.” This effect occurs at a few other places as well, though Death Valley is the most famous spot.
In their book “Mysteries of the World: Unexplained Wonders and Mysterious Phenomena,” Herbert Genzmer and Ulrich Hellenbrand state that “the perfectly flat, dry ground is scoured and scraped with paths that suggest these boulders are being moved along the ground… there is no indication of how this movement could have been brought about by outside forces, and no stone has ever been observed actually making its way across the ground.”
Not all of the stones in Death Valley move. Those that do only move every two to three years, and they don’t all move at the same time or in the same direction. In fact, some seem to have made abrupt 90-degree turns, judging from the tracks, which range from tens of feet to hundreds of feet long. Most of the stones are not huge boulders but instead range from about 6 to 18 inches (15 to 45 centimeters) in diameter.
Several theories have been proposed to explain this curious phenomenon, including some sort of localized, unknown magnetic effect. This theory has been discounted for a variety of reasons including that many of the stones do not contain significant amounts of magnetic elements such as iron, and that the stones should gradually assemble in one place — which they don’t. Some have suggested that the strong winds that blow through the area might move the rocks after the lakebed has become slick.
The most likely solution to the mystery involves a combination of wind, temperature and water. Although Racetrack Playa is a dry lakebed, it is not always dry; in fact, water collects on the surface after rainfall or when snow from surrounding peaks melts. Brian Dunning, a California researcher who discussed this mystery on his Skeptoid podcast, notes that when water is present and the temperature falls below freezing — as it sometimes does — a thin sheet of ice is created: “Solid ice, moving with the surface of the lake and with the inertia of a whole surrounding ice sheet, would have no trouble pushing a rock along the slick muddy floor… As the wind shifts and the flow ebbs, these ice floes drag the rocks across the slippery mud surface in zig-zagging paths, even moving heavy rocks and sometimes dragging some but washing past others nearby.”
NASA researcher Ralph Lorenz became intrigued by the enigmatic stones while studying Death Valley weather conditions. He developed a tabletop experiment to show how the rocks might glide across the surface of the lakebed.
“I took a small rock and put it in a piece of Tupperware, and filled it with water so there was an inch of water with a bit of the rock sticking out,” Lorenz told Smithsonian.com.
After putting the container in the freezer, Lorenz ended up with a small slab of ice with a rock embedded in it. By placing the ice-bound rock in a large tray of water with sand at the bottom, all he had to do was gently blow on the rock to get it to move across the water. And as the ice-embedded rock moved, it scraped a trail in the sand at the tray’s bottom.
Video via inFact with Brian Dunning (YouTube)
By Nadia Drake via National Geographic
Recent photos taken by NASA’s Mars rover might appear to show a gleaming alien bonfire burning in the distance—at least according to some Internet loonies—but that’s not exactly what’s happening.
Fact is, there still isn’t any evidence for life on Mars. None.
The provocative, shiny smears of light appear in two images snapped by rover Curiosity’s navigation camera, one on April 2 and the other on April 3, provoking excitement among some in the UFO-spotting crowd.
The photos come courtesy of the camera’s right eye and show nearly vertical bright smudges emerging from a spot near the horizon. Photos of the same spot shot by the camera’s left eye, meanwhile, show no such things.
Rather than emanating from an underground Martian disco, the bright spots are probably caused by cosmic rays colliding with the rover’s camera or by glinting rocks reflecting the Martian sunlight, said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Justin Maki, lead imaging scientist for the Curiosity team.
He said that glimmers appearing in similar spots on two consecutive days are oddly coincidental.
It turns out that both cosmic rays and glinting rocks are pretty common on Mars. They’ve been spotted before. Such rocks have been seen in images sent by several of NASA’s Mars rovers, and cosmic rays appear in images that Curiosity sends to Earth each week.
Maki said that one percent of those hundreds of weekly images might include cosmic ray-induced bright spots. But the junked-up pixels normally don’t cause much of a stir.
“You’ll see cosmic rays every two or three days. Certainly at least once a week,” Maki said. “The reason we see so many is because Mars’s atmosphere is thinner: It doesn’t block as much cosmic radiation as Earth’s does.”
Cosmic rays are charged particles that fly through the universe in every direction all the time. Every so often they’ll collide with something like a camera. One sign of a cosmic ray hit, Maki said, is the appearance of the ray in images taken by one of Curiosity’s eyes but not the other.
Glinting rocks, on the other hand, could easily reflect Martian sunlight.