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An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Night Sky

Turn off or shield your outside lights downward 
Left unshielded, they ruin the starry night sky and annoy your neighbors. Light glare going upward doesn’t help deter crime. Keep the night sky available for everyone.

June 2017 night sky

—Charlie Christmann

Mars, the Red Planet, has captured our imaginations since before Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli first trained his new, improved telescope on Mars in 1877. Even before Schiaparelli, people had long speculated that Mars was inhabited. In 1719, Giacomo Filippo Maraldi observed seasons on Mars; William Herschel confirmed Mars has seasons in 1783. French astronomer Emmanuel Liais, in the 1860s, surmised the changes on Mars’s surface were caused by plant growth during the different seasons. Schiaparelli described seeing dark “canali” during his 1877 observations.

To date, Earthlings have sent 55 probes to the red planet. Almost half either never made it or died on arrival. Currently, there are four active orbiters and two operational rovers around and on Mars. There are three known non-operational, uncontrolled orbiters around the planet, and possibly other derelicts remaining from previous missions that have not yet reentered and crashed on the surface. In addition, there are numerous crashed space crafts and abandoned landers on Mars. Some space scientists are beginning to call Mars a junkyard for spacecraft.

With all of this attention, surly we know every detail of the Martian surface, have explored many nooks and crannies, and understand the planet well. Or maybe we don’t know it so well…

Rumors and conspiracies are still afloat around the Internet of living creatures on the planet. There is a cadre of people pouring through NASA photos, magnifying every pixel, and attempting to clear fuzzy images, looking for the unusual (or perhaps familiar) images. This includes photos taken from Mars orbit and on the surface.

I have shortened the images URLs in this article using Your antivirus software may give you a warning about these links. In general, beware of shortened URLs if you do not know or trust the source.

On July 25, 1976, the Viking 1 orbiter snapped the iconic image of a rocky face carved from a hilltop in the Cydonia region between the planet's cratered southern highlands and the smoother northern plains. Surly this proves that sometime a civilization must have created this monument, possibly to their alien gods. Subsequent images at much higher resolutions and in different light show nothing that resembles a face. []

The Spirit rover took photos of a “woman” on the surface in 2007. NASA estimates the object in the photograph would be eight to 10 cm tall. The fuzzy image of the object “standing on a rock,” according to NASA analysis is actually just another rock and some shadows. Scientists also pointed out that Mars has a very thin atmosphere and a person without a space suit would suffocate. []

As if a humanoid woman roaming the surface was not enough, others have reported enough animals to start a zoo. In 2013, the Curiosity rover spotted an iguana fossilized on the surface [].

A year before the iguana, a Japanese man reported spotting a rat in another Curiosity rover image [].

The Opportunity rover, in 2015, spotted a buffalo wandering on the Martian landscape [].

A photo from NASA’s Spirit rover in 2011 spotted what was called an ape-like creature [] and something that might be a ram [].

NASA says these are all just rocks.

Some were so sure NASA passed over evidence of life on the planet, that Rhawn Joseph, a neuropsychologist, sued NASA so that they would further investigate. The object suddenly appeared in a photo taken by Opportunity. A picture taken near the rovers showed no rock, but in an image taken of the same area 12 days later, a strange looking rock [] was seen prominently on the surface. This object was likely kicked up by the rover wheels and was not organic.

The best conspiracy was in 2015. It showed an image with the Curiosity rover’s shadow. Some viewers claim they can see a humanoid shadow [] leaning over the rover making repairs. NASA says the “human” shadow is from the rover structure.

While NASA is sure there are no complex lifeforms currently on Mars, there is still the possibility of microbial life living in the shadows or underground. A methane spike detected in the atmosphere, as yet unexplainable through geologic processes, could indicate something living on the red planet. So far, any microbes crawling around have shied away from the limelight of the camera.

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