We’ve been fascinated with the fourth planet ever since we first spotted it in the night sky thousands of years ago, and Earth’s reddish neighbor has always been a source of mystery, fascination… and a touch of horror. Over the past decade, robot rovers including Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit have been delivering a wealth of amazing images from the planet’s surface, making it seem closer, more familiar and even a bit welcoming… and thanks to new breakthroughs in space travel, there could be a human presence on Mars within our lifetimes.
But what if we get there to discover someone – or something – waiting for us?
Before I get further into this piece, I want to make it totally clear that nobody with real scientific training would do anything but giggle at the theories circulating the web about various “unidentified” objects showing up on the rovers’ cameras. After all, we’ve been through this before with that whole “Martian Monkey Face” thing, which turned out to be just a big lumpy mountain. But this stuff is still fascinating to me, for a couple of reasons: first, it’s a cool example of the trait known as pareidolia, which compels our brains to perceive patterns (faces, for example) in totally random shapes; and second, the horror fan in me secretly wants some of these theories to be genuine… because seriously, giant Martian rock crabs? How awesome would that be?
Okay, enough prologue. I’ll just put my favorite “sightings” out there, and it’ll be up to you what to make of them.