Did Scientists Just Discover a Doorway On Mars? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
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In this video, Unveiled takes a closer look at the bizarre new image from NASA's Curiosity Rover which appears to show an alien doorway hidden on Mars! What does it mean? Are there aliens on the Red Planet? Or is there a simpler and less extraterrestrial explanation?

Did Scientists Just Discover a Doorway on Mars?

Of all the planets in the solar system besides Earth, none has been explored quite so thoroughly or continuously as the red planet – Mars. So much so that by now, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing those grainy, ethereal images of a literal alien world, taken by any one of the various rovers that have traveled its surface over the years. But every now and then, an image is beamed back from Mars that gains more attention than usual… and this latest shot has certainly roused a long-standing, extraterrestrial debate.

This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; did scientists just discover a doorway on Mars?

For decades now, Mars has been subject to numerous alien conspiracy theories. In the vastness of space, this world is Earth’s next-door neighbor, so it’s easy to see why humankind has been so enamored with it over the years. And why our species, having realized the likelihood that aliens exist, might then expect them to have set up home on the next planet along from us – because, why not? And, while there are various argued reasons as to why Mars wouldn’t make a good home for life, the possibility that some form of something could be eking out an existence up there has never really disappeared. It’s not surprising, then, that a recently published NASA image seeming to show a doorway cut into a rockface on Mars has breathed new life into alien ideas.

The image in question was captured by the Curiosity rover, which has been operational on Mars since August 2012. And there’s no doubt that there’s cause for at least a double-take. Not only does the image show a near-perfect rectangular opening in the surrounding rock, but there also appears to be a path to that opening, and layered rock to the side of it as if to provide some camouflage. It looks as though you could simply walk through the “doorway”, into the rock face where, inside, there could supposedly be all kinds of alien activity going on, otherwise hidden from view. It could just as well double up as a set on a science fiction movie, but we know that this image really was taken on Mars. It’s not a fake, what it shows is really there. But still, scientists have quickly pointed out that what we’re actually seeing isn’t really a door.

Instead, it’s merely an ordinary and quite expected rock formation created over millions (perhaps billions) of years’ worth of deep geological and natural processes. It’s broadly said to be the result of cracks in the rock face that have split and opened over Martian history, to form something that – in this case – looks uncannily like it must have been carved by intelligent hand. The true size of what we’re seeing is also a sticking point, however, as although it may at first appear to be roughly the same size as most standard doorways as we know them… this doorway is actually less than two feet tall. Of course, as yet, nobody knows the dimensions that alien life might take, and there’s reason to think that it wouldn’t be human-like despite what most sci-fi films imply… but the general point is that this opening is actually quite a small one. And it’s perhaps, then, even easier to imagine that it could’ve been created via natural processes, only.

In fact, scientists say that, really, it’s not even reliant on specifically Martian conditions… with the same (or similar) formations known to have formed on Earth, as well. It’s also been suggested that the nearby, separate piece of rock in the image is important, as it may have been what became dislodged to create the shape we see now. As to the possibility that the doorway was created via a marsquake, most analysts and commentators have erred towards “not likely”. Again, it’s variously argued that features like the doorway are often seen on Earth, as well, and a regular earthquake isn’t needed to form them. Ultimately, the almost universal, scientific conclusion on this image is that, in one way or another, erosion is to blame.

But still, there’s no denying that what’s presented here is peculiar. It’s unlike anything else we’ve noticed so far on Mars, and whatever the size and explanation… it does look very door-like. On the one hand, it’s a measure of how far our technology has come that a remote machine like Curiosity can trundle over unknown terrain more than thirty million miles away from us, and beam back zoomed in images like this of particular details… but on the other, this snapshot is another reminder of how far we’ve yet to go before we can truly begin to understand the solar system.

The doorway is perhaps the most startling “is it alien?” photo of Mars since the famous “Face on Mars”, taken by NASA’s Viking 1 orbiter, in 1976. A photo from above, it appeared to show a humanoid face etched into the Martian surface. However, in this case, it has long been known that the face isn’t a face… but is in fact a perfectly natural hill. Those first photos from the ‘70s were low resolution, so when the same area was photographed later (with much higher resolution cameras) the face-like qualities of it all but dissolved away. And the alien theories thinned out, as well.

The new doorway image will likely never melt away in the same manner as, again, it is a true representation of what’s really there. The cameras on Curiosity are far superior to those that were on Viking, and while they may well be improved again in the future… this rock formation will likely remain precisely as it is for a long, long time. On Earth, geologists refer to a concept known as “deep time” as they deal with a time scale for the planet that’s much, much larger than the time scale of human lives. While we tend to think in minutes, hours, days, and weeks… a geologist needs to grapple with whole epochs, periods, eras, and eons. Huge chunks of time (from our perspective) spanning hundreds of millions of years. And, really, it’s no different on Mars. If the doorway is a natural feature (as almost all claim that it is) then it, too, will have likely taken thousands or millions of years to reach the point it is now.

Clearly, we don’t yet have quite so reliable an understanding of the processes on Mars as we do on Earth, but we do know that most physical changes on the planet still unfold far more slowly than our own lives do. So, the doorway that actually, probably isn’t a doorway… is here to stay. And, until Curiosity captures a follow-up image showing an extraterrestrial head peeking out from inside, perhaps checking to see whether it’s been spotted by that Earth-made machine on its doorstep… then the consensus will always be that it doesn’t mean that aliens are on Mars. It just means that rock has eroded. And that’s not all that unusual.

But, what’s your verdict on this image? In whichever way you understand it, it’s certainly an incredible picture. It’s an image taken by a machine, the Curiosity rover, that was launched off this planet back in November 2011. An eight-and-a-half-month transit followed, as Curiosity traveled through the solar system to Mars, before successfully landing and starting its pioneering journey across the Martian surface. In the time since, it has sent back plenty of images – including more than a few “self-portraits” – all of which have helped us to turn Mars into a more recognisable world than it ever was before. This planet is still a definitely alien place, but Curiosity has enabled us to see it in a new and increasingly less mysterious light.

It’s one reason why scientists can now look at an image like the one of the doorway and put forward strong explanations for what it is that we’re seeing. With the “Face on Mars”, the wrong conclusions were reached mostly because the technology (as amazing as it was) couldn’t yet capture Mars in detail. But here, we have everything we need… we just have to make sense of it. And, while it being a unique insight into the deep time geology of Mars perhaps isn’t quite so immediately as exciting as it being proof of extraterrestrial intelligence… the former explanation is, at present, widely favored above the latter.

And that’s why, although scientists have discovered a doorway of sorts on Mars, it’s not thought to be alien made.