Is a strange speck of light on Mars evidence of intelligent life on the Red Planet?
That's what some are asking after what appears to be a bright white beam of light shining from behind the Martian dunes showed up in images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover.
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Scott Waring of the website UFO Sightings Daily noticed the mysterious spot in a photo taken by the rover on April 3, or sol 589 (a sol is a day on Mars). Waring wrote:
An artificial light source was seen this week in this NASA photo which shows light shining upward from...the ground. This could indicate there there is intelligent life below the ground and uses light as we do. This is not a glare from the sun, nor is it an artifact of the photo process. Look closely at the bottom of the light. It has a very flat surface giving us 100% indiction it is from the surface.
The spot also appears in an image taken on April 2 from a slightly different angle.
Yet a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab points out that while the light appears in the images taken by the rover camera's "right-eye," it doesn't appear in images taken only seconds later by the camera's "left-eye."
To the JPL scientist, Dr. Justin Maki, the facts suggest the light is not evidence of alien life at all. His theory?
"One possibility is that the light is the glint from a rock surface reflecting the sun," Maki told The Huffington Post in an email. "When these images were taken each day, the sun was in the same direction as the bright spot, west-northwest from the rover, and relatively low in the sky."
The light could also be simply a photographic artifact resulting from the "charge-coupled device" (CCD) that the camera uses to capture images.
"The rover science team is also looking at the possibility that the bright spots could be sunlight reaching the camera's CCD directly through a vent hole in the camera housing, which has happened previously on other cameras on Curiosity and other Mars rovers when the geometry of the incoming sunlight relative to the camera is precisely aligned," Maki added.
Others have suggested the culprit may be cosmic rays--charged atomic particles in space--that smashed into the camera's detector.
Whatever the light turns out to be, it's not the first time anomalies have been spotted on the surface of Mars. Other strange objects--since explained--have included a rat-shaped rock, an "iguana," a "jelly donut," and a rock that seemed to appear from nowhere.