View Full Version : Life : For you to judge

2004-May-18, 09:49 PM
I am a Nature/Landscape photographer, and have some graphics designing skills as well as an above average interest for life in general - basically "evolution".

Several months ago I became active on this forum for a brief period of time durning the more "action filled" days of the two NASA landers. Having a lot of time I did not mind being consumed by all the information out there - and there is a lot of it.

Life on Mars - does it exist? Is there evidence, and to what extent? Are there alternative explanations for what we see on photos? Is it just coincidence, or are there many photos showing similar features. Just a few questions that came to mind. These questions were impossible to answer with the information I found on the web ....some people make vague and usually quite silly claims about life forms they think are shown in photos. Although I am openminded I do not like jumping to conclusions without researching matters for myself - and so I did.

Photos made by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC), and indexed on the MSSS website (http://www.msss.com/mars_images/index.html) have been a source of valuable information for many scientists and laymen alike. There are countless websites filled with the photos most of us probably know by exotic names - "glass worms" or the "spiders" made famous by a comment made by Arthur C. Clark. Websites like http://www.martianspiders.com show well researched cases, presented in a professional manner. Although I find the spider formations interesting, I have not seen any evidence that really convinced me of them being biogenic in nature - but that is a different story.

I have been detached from Mars-related matters since February..finding another job, helping build a house in Spain, picking up my old habits of hiking and photography. Very time consuming, and this leaves me with little time behind a PC. However, I spent three months on one of the biggest personal projects I ever started - indexing photos from the Martian Southpole shot by the MOC.

Every single photo there is from the southpole, from every fly-by, has been seen by my eyes. Obviously seeing and analysing is a major difference - but I have invested more than 1400 hours in scanning, indexing and then re-analysing the most interesting ones - except for sleeping and eating that is what I did for three months, continously.

I realised that without some proper comparison material one cannot make even the simplest of judgements on photographical satellite content - Military professionals get an education spanning three years before fully being able to analyze satellite photos. To compensate slightly for this I started working on satellite photos from our own planet - Earth. Knowing how basic rock formations look is essential. There are a lot of interesting formations of rocks and dunes to be found on Earth, often kindly gathered & placed on websites that allow you to view the extremely high res photos.

Picking photos with similar magnification is obviously crucial - Between 2 and 10 meters/pixel, more or less. After this period of "self training" I continued with the first few thousand photos from the Southpole, MOC generated. These first weeks were obviously filled with false judgements, erroneous catalogueing and other mistakes. One has to learn "as one goes", in this case. I re-did the first 15% of photos on the end of the three months spent analyzing.

The more photos I gathered, the more I started to doubt I could ever convince anyone - I simply lack the scientific backgrounds, the credibility and even things like language issues roar their ugly head. Later on I doubted I actually had the intelligence to make a proper case - sometimes your brain refuses to cope with the tremendous amounts of information and all the factors associated.
I have seen fare more professionally brought cases on far smaller issues being dismissed by everyone (irregardless if I found the case to be solid or not personally).

All these issues work as a demotivator - the amount of information to analyse is huge, the amount of time needed to properly make a case of even _one_ of the photos I selected spans days, let alone doing this for a lot of photos, and having to span across seemingly non related image features to prove something. Not only that, but the chances are that most of what you deem "interesting" or "special" at first turns out to be nothing in the end - the majority of artifacts/oddities actually end up being nothing special - geological formations.

This simple fact - not being able to prove anything, even if there would be a jumping pink dinosaur - also works as a demotivator. I did some trial "runs" on this forum and with people I knew were critical about life on mars (among them Student astronomers, biologists) and noticed that every time a single photo simply ends in a hundred things "that probably look different than they appear". This is fine with a single photo - but one has to appreciate the resemblence of odd features in photos spanning many hundreds or thousands of images - not one - to be able to realise that perhaps this is not just an artifact of the sensor, or a once-in-a-life-time dune formation. Power in numbers.

This also to my frustration - I cannot expect a person to look at several thousand of photos and then take a look at one specific photo again - just to get the "feel" of this type of photo, this type of terrain, this type of artifact/oddity. And, as mentioned earlier, you simply know that most - and with some bad luck all - of your anomalies will turn out to be nothing special at all. This does not help credability if you try to make a case, and also lowers the motivation to "keep searching" and investing time.l

These and other problems that arose were the reason I decided to stop investing time - and thoughts - into this mini-project of myself - since I realised that even if I would be looking at real, unique life on Mars that it will hold no value, no power, no meaning whatsoever until NASA or another large space agency officially proves the existance of such life true other means than just photos. Even in that case there will be large amounts of people reluctant to accept this information - some will not believe it all.

The good thing is that the opinions of people on this planet will not make a shred of difference to the existance, or absence of life forms of any kind on Mars - or elsewhere in the universe.
This eased my mind finally - and also made me stop caring. Good and bad..

Several people have urged that I at least make the information I have right now - as crude as it is - available to the public. There are few people that had the time and energy to scan through so many thousands of images - and the information I gathered might be of value or interested to others. After several months of nothingness I decided it would be better for the invested time, and better for potentional life displayed on any photos, that I made the whole mini project public right now.

Detailed information from specific photos is allready starting to fade - the evil hand of time...

Please feel free to do whatever you wish with the photos, the categories or the information. All comments posted with photos are obviously speculation - and should be regarded as such. The photos and information are hence provided "as is" and should not be seen as a theory or even a hypothesis.

I tried not to include photos that are "unique" (Pure coincidence, e.g. such as heart-shaped rocks or glaciers) , unless noted. I discriminated quite ruthlessly at times - and expect more than just one or two photos of a type of oddity to list it.

[ Please realise that all of the information above, and all the photos that will be posted + their comments were never intended to be shown to the public - they are crude "notes" ment to be used in a later stage ]

2004-May-18, 10:17 PM
The first objects - and the most striking ones - are features I call "Spikes".

Basic features of spikes appear to be :
- Average highest lengths are +- 150 meters
- Thick, round/coned base with flattened stem, up to +-10meters wide (and about half of that in thickness)
- Preference for slopings/hills/ridges

Speculation :
- Perhaps "fossils" of some kind (No direct geological explanation is available - no public comment on any image of these spikes has been recorded by NASA or MSSS)

Longest spike measured +- 115 meters high

I drew visualisations from two perspectives, obviously crude sketches, for a friend that helped me study the basic properties of these spikes. I figure it does no harm in posting these :

(Please forget the background - the spikes are actually located in a huge, miles wide crater)



Spikes viewed from multiple angles 120 meters for the longest (might be longer, angle difficult to judge)

Spikes presumably viewed from the side - 145 to 185 for the longest (left longest difficult to judge)

Spikes presumably viewed from the side - 165 meters for the highest

Spikes from top and angled perspectives (lots of them)

The above and other image sources showing similar features :
(Please note that for the untrained eye there are many issues with looking at sattelite photos - their perspective is to say the least "unusual" and it takes time to get used to this - for example can be shadows are cast in one direction on the upper half of the image, and the other way on the lower - this is a direct result of the curvature of the lens / martian surface and the inclination of the sattelite. )

Please realise I never intended to use any of my comments or classifications for public use - purely for my own reference.

Spikes (Slightly below centre of image, left side, pointing to the bottom of the image)

Spikes (Centre of image, dark, pointing to the top of the image)

Spikes from various perspectives (Straight from above and side views)

Spikes (faint, at mountaindropoff)

Spikes (bottom of image) + spots

Spikes (see E0700658)

Huge Spikes (114 meters high - measured incorrectly at first)

Upstanding spikes

2004-May-18, 10:54 PM
Very interesting pictures. Stunning.

Let me note some patterns I've observed.

First, only a couple of those images give the appearance of "spikes", or upward projections away from the surface. Only a couple have the very narrow "spikes" - notably the first and second-to-last. On the others, the spikes are broader, and follow the terrain very closely.

Second, note how the spikes consistently follow the terrain. They appear mostly along ridgelines or crater rims.

Third, note that the narrow ends almost exclusively point downhill to the local terrain. The broad part is at the top of the ridgeline, with the point down the slope, or the broad part is on the outer lip of the crater and point pointing inward.

These features almost have the appearance of flow patterns. They resemble, for instance, stain patterns from water leaking through a wall and down the inside.

The dots and spots and mottled appearance has caught the attention of Mars researchers, and they have proposed an explanation that relies on sun angle to explain melting. I have not seen these images before, but someone previously linked a paper showing features similar to the other features, the dark/light patterns.

I'm sorry you feel discouraged. It takes a lot of willpower to dedicate yourself to something as extensive as you describe. I hope you gained some value from the exercise, perhaps knowledge about yourself if nothing about Mars. ;)

Nowhere Man
2004-May-18, 11:16 PM
I kind of hate to burst your bubble, seeing all the work you put into this. But looking at the photos, I am reminded of an article in the June 2004 Astronomy magazine, "Does Mars Have Flowing Water?" by Tahirih Motazedian. The article has a dozen pictures of "dark streaks," presumably caused by liquid water flowing down slopes (heavy brine is the best hypothesis, according to the article). New streaks appear as time passes, and older streaks fade.

These streaks strongly resemble the spikes you point out in your photos. All of your spikes start along a line of abrupt slope change, a ridge as you put it or, to me, the top edge of a sharp drop-off (a cliff, if you will). The differing slopes account for the different angles at which the spikes point. I interpret your first photo as a series of terraces, from the upper lips of which water is leaking and flowing downhill. The lowest part of the region shown in that photo is in the upper-left corner.

The Astronomy article does not appear to be on the web, but the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2846897.stm) has an article that shows some of the same photos. Search for her name and you'll get several hits on this subject (mostly repeats of the BBC article).


Edit to add: Curse you, irishman! You sniped me! 8)

2004-May-18, 11:41 PM
Um... why do you call them "spikes" instead of "streaks"?

What on Earth, or Mars, makes you think they project above the surface? I'm not seeing it.

2004-May-19, 12:00 AM
You are all free to build your own opinion on this topic, as said the time that I tried convincing people of my viewpoint (or for that matter, going through the trouble explaining it ) is long past, and perhaps other people enjoy the objects or features in the photos - either for esthetical or scientific value :)

2004-May-19, 07:39 AM
At first glance the first image you posted looks like spikes above the surface however the subsequent images clearly show they are streaks on the surface. Cool images none the less.

2004-May-19, 12:23 PM
I never thought they were anything but dunes with ripples down one side. Similar to the "tubes".

I would never have thought of spikes, and still don't.

2004-May-19, 01:09 PM
Picking photos with similar magnification is obviously crucial - Between 2 and 10 meters/pixel, more or less. After this period of "self training" I continued with the first few thousand photos from the Southpole, MOC generated. These first weeks were obviously filled with false judgements, erroneous catalogueing and other mistakes. One has to learn "as one goes", in this case. I re-did the first 15% of photos on the end of the three months spent analyzing.

As a professional in the analysis and interpretation of satellite imagery of Earth, I'll just state that there is a difference in what objects and elements are imaged and how one interprets those objects between 2 meters per pixel and 10 meters.

I have over 6 years of experience interpreting satellite images and have more than a passing interest in the images from MGS and Odyssey. I can not agree with your interpretation of the features you say are "spikes." I go with the "streaks" interpretation.


2004-May-19, 01:25 PM
Magic, when I saw your name as the topic author, I knew I was in for a treat! Please keep on keeping on!

The first picture immediately gives the impression that they are spikes. The reason is they appear to cast appropriate shadows. However, I noticed that the shadows on the darker ground are to the right but the shadows on the lighter ground are above the "spikes". I don't see how they can be vertical if this is true. The last picture seems more consistent in the "shadows" being cast, however, the greater "shadows" seem to be cast by pot-hole looking objects indicating, again, they are not shadows but just dark material cast by some major event I suppose.

Still, very interesting stuff.

On a side note...In your opinion, what else will be needed from JPL to allow someone with your talent to render images close to "true color".

I am also helping build a house for a friend in need. Hope your home building was a good experience.

Don't get too discouraged, you have a special talent we all admire. =D>
Look at me, hmmm....nevermind. :-? Fortunately, tolerance levels are high. :)

2004-May-19, 03:26 PM
As a professional in the analysis and interpretation of satellite imagery of Earth, I'll just state that there is a difference in what objects and elements are imaged and how one interprets those objects between 2 meters per pixel and 10 meters.

I have over 6 years of experience interpreting satellite images and have more than a passing interest in the images from MGS and Odyssey. I can not agree with your interpretation of the features you say are "spikes." I go with the "streaks" interpretation.



Yes I realized that all too well - and since the MOC images that I studied varied between 2 and 10 meter pixel sizes I decided I needed comparison material from earth - from objects that were analyzed and described properly by specialists - in the same resolution ranges.

I welcome your experience - there is a huge rift on (public, forums) the internet as far as satellite image analysts is concerned. Perhaps you can also shine your light on future images I will post in this thread - regardless of your opinion on the first set, I think that a contribution from anyone is a valueable one in this.

I will add another set of images from another anomaly/feature shortly!

For George :

Thanks, the above image is just one of my favorites but there are countless that are more spectacular / bizarre / interesting. I just decided that I will not be only posting images I rated as " possibly signs of life" but also just spectacular ones - I have one for example, from a landslide - unique and undocumented by NASA/MSSS or anyone on the internet.

I get the urge to argue at times when reading comments - there are a lot of things that go unnoticed by people...most notably the distortion that is present in these images - since I utilise crops and links to unprocessed images (Not map-aligned etc). This is because the resolution (detail) on the unprocessed images is far higher - and hence there is a greater visibility. Most image analysis I have seen on the web are done using the map aligned images - and I have a gut feeling that many small details have been overlooked.

More to come as said, keep refreshing later today :)

2004-May-19, 03:58 PM
I look forward to all your future images.

As a favor, if you acquire all the necessary parameters for reasonable "true color" rendering of Mars images and they reveal more blue than anticipated, please let me know. There is a misconception (likely originating from a small area bounded by my two ears :) ) as to the Suns color emission. It's a bit trivial, but, I would appreciate anything to get this out of my system.

2004-May-19, 04:12 PM
That first picture does appear to be spikes. I am trying to locate shadowing to determine if the objects have dimension, and am having difficulty convincing myself I see any shadows.

Perhaps, you have some other images where the sun is at just the right angle for the shadows to be cast on the ground. If you do, I would expect to see the shadows take on a similar appearance to the spikes being shadowed in size and characteristic.

Your second image looks more like something lying flat on the ground. If these objects were spikes, I would have to believe that a great wind, a landslide, or other force has caused them to be knocked to the ground. Nevertheless, they do appear to me to have dimension to them greater than your usual streak. There appear to be slight humps/bulbs closest to the ridge-like feature.

Your next to last image is curious. There looks like a sheer wall from this view just below your spikes. Is that what it appears to be? I can't tell for sure what part of this feature is at a higher elevation from any other spot. However, if the spikes are at an elevation above what appears to be a sheer cliff - I'd like some explanation for why the streaks are travelling from a lower elevation to a higher elevation - dripping upward? Or is this simply an illusion from my inability to determine elevation?

Your final image is also very interesting. I am tempted to believe that what I see are rock formations growing out from under the ice - and breaking the ice as they peak out into the open air. The feature that really makes me believe this, is the white rings around the base of each "spike." I may try to find some earth images of trees coming out of frozen ponds later if I get a chance, to determine if there is some similarity.

So, those are the "spikes" from a complete non-expert's point of view.

2004-May-19, 04:43 PM
[ Bacteria/Fungus like behaviour on a large scale (spots) ]

There are many documented cases of these "spots" on the web, and as many alternate explanations as you can think of. I found some new, interesting images that also portray the spots in fascinating ways.

Possible avoiding/grouping/staying clear behaviour

This processed portion of the above image shows the spots might actually be spheres, not pits or flat parts of terrain. I utilised an edge finding technique. Please realise that the photo below has been both enlarged and brightened, and only larger details are accurate.

Doing the above with various earth satellite photos did not result in a similar honeycomb pattern. Perhaps the way the CCD of the MOC imager works contributes to this pattern - but in other photos not showing the "spots" this honeycomb pattern does not exist while using the same enhancement techniques.

"Swirl" or stripes of lighter color - perhaps airborne, perhaps a terrain feature.

Linking spots to the presence of water :

Note that the original image shows a "colony" type formation of spots, very near to the feature shown above. Very mild spotting can be witnessed on the upper half of the original image where also rivers of ice seem to have formed.

NASA has many documented images that explain these glaciers of ice to be just that - glaciers of ice! Underground water escapes out of the gullies/raveens and freezes quite rapidly as it is exposed to the cold outside air.

Possibly spots on edges of melting ice :

What is highly unique in this photo is that you can see where the icefield stops (check the larger image) , we can witness spots on the edges of the melting ice - right where you know there is liquid water (for short periods of time - depending on weather conditions) .

The above image and main features have been described by NASA as "melting ice", and happen when the temperatures rise and the ice in large parts of the southpole melt - and this might also result in liquid water existing for brief periods of time.

Spots with possible signs of shadows - suggesting they are "lumps"

I measured the dimensions of the spots, and the length of the shadows they cast. (Hypothising they are not deposits of material, but shadows)
This combined with a sun azimuth of 53.59 lead me to conclude some of the larger spots in the image are over 60 meters high. The direction of the sun matches that of what to expect looking at the shadows.

Calculation was based on known scaled pixel width of 3.90 meters (per pixel) .
One particular clear example (due to its size) had a shadow measuring +-12px, yielding an effective height of +- 16px. The shape of the shadow implies a more or less spherical object without major extrusions or dents.

Another section of the above image processed :

An example terrestial image I processed, from a part of the Nevada mountain range :

Now initially I did not find the images above to hold any "worth" for a public release at all - simply because I despise the processed images you see so often on the web, showing aliens, faces, toys, weapons or even complete cities in the sandy photos stemming from the two Mars Rovers.

However, I remembered that I encountered an image that showed a very, very similar type of pattern - without any processing or enhancing.
source : http://ida.wr.usgs.gov/html/e09013/e0901371.html

Now I've processed this image as well - which was a breeze since I had so much data to start with, and I must say I'm very happy with the results. They match the pattern which I found in the dark spots above !

PLEASE check out the high resolution, processed image (It's well worth the 2 mb download!)

Good example of possible colony type behaviour

Good example of possible colony type behaviour

Other images showing interesting colony style behaviour :



Colony + roots (double image in various txt)

Colony + halos



Spot colony


Spot colony beneath signs of water erosion-hills

Spot colony beneath signs of water erosion-hills

Spot colony on dunes

Spot colony and possible water clouds

Spot colony on dunefield

Spot colony on dunefield

Spot colony on dunefield (snow covered)

Spots in colony (possible clearshadow casting - needs enhancement)

Colony (small, but nice)



Detailed image showing various types of spots avoiding each other

** Spots that show distinct "distance keeping" with smaller spots!


I just realised that the amount of photos I have that are in a colony, or just "spots" of some sort is so huge that it is not very usefull to post them all in this message. The entire text document is located here :


2004-May-19, 06:56 PM
Unfortunately, there is one single but big problem with each "odd object" we see on Mars: the number of images we have of it.
A single image can't proof anything: what do you see below?
It could be a hole inside a polygon... but it actually is...this (http://jumpjack.altervista.org/immagini/matita2.jpg), seen from a particular point of view! :o
Have you got more than one picture of the same object? At least two, to have a 3d view (http://marsunearthed.com/MarsExpress/MarsExpressGlyphs/ME7_3D/MarsExpress7_3D%20.htm) (from this site (http://marsunearthed.com/OMIndex/MarsMissionsIndex.htm)) , but the more they are, the better you could understand what you are looking at.

2004-May-19, 07:01 PM
These images are for comparison. They are probably not particularly helpful, but still interesting:

Cracks in a frozen Maryland pond:


Half-frozen pond in Ohio:


Frozen pond:



Cracks forming in a frozen pond:


From a Florida swamp: "On the last day of February I awoke to find the shallow waters of the Cypress Pond encrusted with ice.":


A frozen beaver pond:


Someone doing figure 8's, scratching up the ice on a frozen Connecticut pond:


A frozen over quarry pond:


Odd ice circles forming on a pond:


2004-May-19, 07:14 PM
This is another earth image from the ice circles pages:



Take a look, in particular, at these images:





As far as I know, the explanation of these ice circle formations on earth is also unexplained. Bacterial colonies?

2004-May-20, 02:07 PM
This particular image got my attention also...

Spikes from various perspectives (Straight from above and side views)

At the very top of the image, there are some interesting things to consider. I started looking again for shadows, and noticed there are some very light gray lines in the image, which are very similar in appearance to the dark black objects that are either spikes or streaks.

The light gray lines seem to emanate from those tiny white holes in the ice. (There's a white circle at each emanation point), and sometimes there is a tiny black dot at the emanation point.

Please take a look at these slight gray lines, because there are a large number of them, and I doubt that you are even arguing these thin gray lines are spikes.

They are also definitely not shadows, which leaves me to believe, these very light gray lines are, in fact, streaks.

If the light gray lines are streaks, then how are the streaks forming? My guess is that the darker stuff is a different substance from the water ice on the top layer. Perhaps, the darker stuff is a mixture of water and black carbon dust, that is crystallizing into rising spikes just below the surface. As the frozen black carbon-water spikes break the surface of the water ice, the white rings are left in the ice around the spike. Then as temperatures rise just a bit, the carbon-water ice begins to melt faster than the clear water ice. This causes the liquid carbon water to spill over onto the clear water ice and leave the streaks we see.

I doubt though, that the carbon-water-ice spikes (reverse icicles) are rising more than a few feet above the surface. Though - I do think they must be breaking the surface to reach an elevation higher than the surrounding clear-water-ice on the flatter surface.

As further evidence that these objects are breaking the clear surface water ice layer, look at the particularly large dark black ones. The ones that look like elephant tusks are particularly revealing. At the base of some of these we see different shades of gray or black just inside the sharp white circles. My theory is the different colors we see on the base of some of these round based ones, shows that we are getting different quantities of light reflection from what I think is the black carbon-ice projection.

I still don't think these projections are much higher than a few feet. Otherwise, we would see some shadows from them, especially against the white background in this image. If these spikes were 150 meters high (rather than 150 meter long streaks), there would surely be some light gray shadows against that white background, that appeared similar to the dark black streaks that you theorized are tall spikes.

Just to add a bit to my theory, consider that we know there are vast quantities of dry ice - or carbon dioxide ice just a few feet below the clear water ice on the surface. There are also probably rocky ridges below the surface, especially where we see these streaks/spikes, and those rocks likely contain a large quantity of carbon. Think of those rocks as very coal-like. As the water ice layer melts and refreezes, even slightly, the ice works on that coal-like rock like a rasp, and produces a coal dust, which can mix with the melted water ice around it. This effect is then repeated each year for a hundred thousand years, until the top of these ridges are slowly sharpened a bit into spikey rocks that break through the surface water ice each year.

It's also possible the ice is more likely to melt around these points, because the carbon rocks are connected deeper underground in Mars, and may be conducting Mars thermal energy from the core, upward to the surface through the rocks.

Well, those are just some theories I'm throwing out there to consider.

You are posting some really cool pictures that are interesting to think about, and I hope to see more.

Thanks again for the pics.

2004-May-20, 02:14 PM
Those of you inserting images should keep in mind that the BA strongly frowns upon accessing images directly off another website unless it's your own or a website that's intended to make images freely available, like some of the NASA ones.