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NASA suggests that Mars light likely reflection of sun off of rock

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According to an April 8 announcement by NASA, scientists are throwing cold water on the notion that a mysterious light picked up on the Martian surface by the Mars Curiosity rover is somehow artificial. Likely the light is a reflection of the sun off of a rock. That would be of interest to geologists, but not as much to UFO enthusiasts who think it might be evidence of intelligent life on the Red Planet.

“’In the thousands of images we've received from Curiosity, we see ones with bright spots nearly every week,’ said Justin Maki of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., leader of the team that built and operates the Navigation Camera. ‘These can be caused by cosmic-ray hits or sunlight glinting from rock surfaces, as the most likely explanations.’

“If the bright spots in the April 2 and April 3 images are from a glinting rock, the directions of the spots from the rover suggest the rock could be on a ridge about 175 yards (160 meters) from the rover's April 3 location.

“The bright spots appear in images from the right-eye camera of the stereo Navcam, but not in images taken within one second of those by the left-eye camera. Maki said, ‘Normally we can quickly identify the likely source of a bright spot in an image based on whether or not it occurs in both images of a stereo pair. In this case, it's not as straightforward because of a blocked view from the second camera on the first day.’”

Mars has often provided entertaining images due to the eye’s tendency to play tricks. The so-called “Face on Mars” allegedly picked up by one of the Viking orbiters created great buzz about ancient, dead Martian civilizations. It turned out, alas, to be a trick of light and shadow as subsequent Mars probes have proven.

Mars has provided a certain allure in the past century or so, from the speculation on canals by Percival Lowell to the fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs as an exotic world that might have been teaming with life. The reality of a cold, arid planet was something of a disappointment, though probes like Mars Curiosity have uncovered evidence that it was warm and wet billions of years ago, perhaps with life forms.

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