Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

July 22, 1995

The Face on Mars
Picture Credit: NASA,Viking Project,

Explanation: This image, showing what looks to be a human face sculpted on the martian surface, was produced using data from NASA's Viking 1 orbiter in 1976. Described in a press release as a "face-like hill" it caused some to offer the sensational speculation that it was an artificial construct built by an intelligent civilization on Mars! As a result, this image was splashed across the covers of many grocery store tabloids at the time. A detailed analysis of multiple images of this feature reveals a natural looking martian hill whose illusory face-like appearance depends on viewing angle and angle of illumination.

For more information about the picture see the NSSDC Photo Gallery of Mars.

For a detailed discussion of the "Face on Mars" see Calvin J. Hamilton's Face on Mars page.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day is brought to you by Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell . Original material on this page is copyrighted to Robert J. Nemiroff and Jerry T. Bonnell.