Perhaps you came to this site because you want find candidate Life Forms on Mars by analysing space imagery i.e. Objects of Interest in images that might merit further scientific investigation at some point to confirm if they are real life forms on Mars.
More likely you came to see more UFOs, little ladies sitting on rocks, artefacts or ruins of ancient Martian civilizations, or a menagerie of unlikely creatures that are simply rocks or groups of of rocks that look like something someone may have dreamed up, then this Blog will be a great disappointment for you I am afraid. The aim here is the observation by image analysis, discussion and recording of candidate life forms on Mars.
If you want to get a little more serious about image analysis for potential life forms on Mars this may be the blog for you. Together we will examine imagery in an semi-organised way, out of interest and curiosity in an attempt to find candidate life forms in images of the Martian terrain.
On YouTube, slick presentations abound with dramatic music and a parade of blurry frames with, an often incoherent commentary that relies on the rather weak argument “this looks like X and so it is X“.
This sounds pretty silly, right? Well, not completely…
Some astrobiologists have the same mind set it seems, something along the lines of …”When I see an alien life form in an image, I will know it right away!“… Really? Now that is an amazing claim! Astrobiologists have not managed to do this so far and that is one of the reasons for this Blog.
The other kind of YouTube delight has a presenter who rambles on and on in a haphazard way as images are summoned up and fiddled with on a large screen monitor while the star of the show reveals what he or she has found in images and that is now graciously sharing exclusively with the world courtesy of YouTube. Reading the comments to those videos we may see…
- “I have some in my garden. They are rocks!!
- “20 minutes of my life that I will never get back!”
- “Awesome, dude!”
Sorry to say it, but usually, in most of these YouTube offerings the objects of interest are indeed rocks! And maybe they are interesting but awesome dude…? Nope. Not really…
Yet, hard though it may be to believe it, these presentations and their ilk are all close to making important, useful observations.
I will say no evil of these young enthusiasts. These Image Analysts are at least looking at the imagery and are trying to understand it. Many are generally quite talented at doing that…but what they are trying to do is actually getting in the way of useful observations. Their method and motive lets them down.
They are looking for something in these images that will make them famous and rich that they have constructed in their imaginations. They dream of discovering UFOs, alien civilizations and artefacts on Mars and strange living creatures and beings on the Martian surface. They look for what is familiar to them, that they can recognise, even if that owes more to their imaginings than reality.
They will focus in on the tiniest element of an image that might fit the bill, present it like a Hollywood movie, dramatic music and tense commentary. All tremendous fun and demanding real skills! Nobody takes it too seriously…In short order, they all do the same thing and it becomes click bait and that makes them money. I certainly hope so, after all that hard work.
What they need to do is look for something they do not recognize or understand at all and analyse the heck out it. Mars, after all, is another planet, not really much like Earth at all (After all it is spherical, not flat! :D) with no air to speak of, blasted by intense ionizing radiation, no vegetation, no surface water and soils with enough perchlorates in them to “Kill all known germs dead!”.
If there is life on the surface of Mars it is unlikely to look like anything we know here on Earth. It is unlikely to be organic. It may not be water based. It may not be really life in the sense we understand the term. They should be looking for the differences in images not similarities to what we have on Earth. Maybe they will come to this Blog and consider new approaches and possibilities.
What is missing is careful, objective analysis, consideration and a balanced presentation of their observations with clear reasons why the object is what they say it is. Also they need to play devil’s advocate and explain why it might not be what they suggest. If all they can do is claim that “it looks like something real or imagined”… it is not enough. One man’s alien artefact is another’s rock.
If you have come to this Blog and want to stay, you are now all Image Analysts. You are going to walk the walk and talk the talk of image analysts. We are all blog brothers and sisters and, I hope, the best of friends.
Relax. Smile. Stay calm. Joke around a bit but remember this is a family gathering and there may be small kids here so please be on your best behaviour and set a good example. Watch the language or get a “bar of soap” award!
Enough of the waffling on from me…let’s look at a candidate life form on Mars!
Here is the thing though, you will have to find it yourselves. I’ll show you my analysis in the next blog. For now you are on your own.
Your first assignment, fellow image analysts, is to independently assess the accuracy of an observation that I stumbled on about 5 years ago in a Curiosity image from sol 618. That was the first sol of Curiosity imagery that I looked at. It is shown below. I was trying to confirm something else as it happens, when I arrived at this object of interest. It came as a bit of a eye opener to find it:
Fig 1 – MastcamRight sol 618 2014 MAY 03 04:16:55 UTC Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Please don’t don’t trust this image…I may have tampered with it; it may be inferior to the online image. Never trust me, or anyone else, who tries to persuade you of anything. Check it out for yourself. Go directly to the source at the link below… Use Google Zoom feature (+) 300% ~ 500%…get in really close and look carefully for anything unusual in this image (and any other image you ever analyse).
So this scene looks like a typical day on Mars…just rocks and sand! Good call!…Just what I thought…Who is for a cold beer and a bag of crisps? But…wait…hang on a bit! There is something a little out of place in this image and you will probably be able to find it quite easily.
The authentic experience would be to turn off the lights, scan the entire image at highest magnification from Top Left to Bottom Right, very slowly as I was doing.
This is good experience, by the way, because very early on it is possible that you will begin to wonder what on Mars you are looking at. “Is this really just sand and rock as science insists ?”you may ask yourself. Maybe you are seeing something else but are not quite sure what it is? That is exactly why I was looking at these images. I scanned all of the Mastcam images on Sol 618, because of that very reason. I expected to find only rocks and sand but at this magnification I was seeing much more and it was a frustrating, puzzling “more”. I was getting quite angry with Mars on that first day.
Anyway, keep on viewing the image…
No time for this? Need a clue? OK…just this once mind you… Please look on the right of image about 1/3rd of the way up…in among those big rocks. You are looking for something in that area that, even at this magnification, does not look very much like the rocks usually observed on Mars. Probably most Planetary Geologists will grudgingly agree with that analysis. If they don’t they are welcome to disagree here on this blog with examples of images of other rocks that look like this in Gale Crater or elsewhere.
Frankly, at first sight, it looked like a tail end of some heavy duty electrical cable with its plastic end protector in place to me but that is just the Engineering Inspector in me talking. 😀
Found it? Good! Well done. Hope you are as interested as I was!
If you have found the object of interest, let’s capture it at different magnifications using <PrtSc> and then paste the image captures into a Word Document. Click <Page Layout> Click <Page Colour> Select <Black>…No distractions now, right?…just the cropped images. Cut and paste the link at the top of the Web Page of the image under your image if you wish. Reduce text size to 8 point change the text colour to grey.
We are removing peripheral distractions. Basic as it gets. Nothing fancy here!
A traceable label is needed for this image for later reference so that others can easily confirm your observation independently. This image is Mastcam Right sol 618 2014 MAY 03 04:16:55 UTC…there are other labels that could be used but this one gives us useful information…Camera Used – Sol – Date of Image – Time of Image UTC Alternatively 0618MR0026010460401315E01_DXXX or both methods. You could paste the link as I suggest…but remember peripheral distraction…a bright blue link is not helpful…change the text to a grey colour
Spend at least 20~30 minutes looking at these crop images, preferably in low light conditions, away from distractions…have a coffee. Relax. Forget everything you think you know. It doesn’t matter and is not relevant to this object. Ask yourself one simple question.
What am I seeing here?
Rocks? Probably not. Rocks on Mars do not usually look like this…OK… we’ll allow an “unusual” rock not seen elsewhere in Gale Crater so far or here on Earth. Maybe some sort of mineral formation that has been uncovered by aeolian processes ..hmmm… maybe – mineral formations on Earth can look like something man-made, like strange little animals, plants or even some types of fungus. How about an image artefact – an image glitch? (A cosmic ray glitch (CRG) from a sun storm!) Nope – it’s in multiple images – and so it’s not that. Something dropped by an alien?…On your bike!! Cable that dropped off Curiosity? Nice going chief!!! Now you sound like NASA!… OK! Then it has to be an alien life form ?!!!Right??!!!!! Hmmm…Well….Errr…Ummmmmmm!
Nope!!! Actually, we cannot go leaping to conclusions here. We are only Image Analysts. We don’t leap…we analyse…we look and think and record. So instead of leaping and covering ourselves in glory or, more likely, acute embarrassment, we do something completely different.
In our Word Document we collect crop images – highly magnified, adjusted views of the details of the object of interest. We write down our observations of this candidate life form…anything we can see or notice which is interesting or unusual. Verbal description of appearance of object (Color – Texture – Size – Reflections-Distinguishing Features – Vertical/Oblique/Horizontal Habit) – Appearance resembling Terrestrial Life or Plant Forms – Other Observed Details, etc, etc…up to the observer really, but do please try to stay in the realms of science, not science fiction. It takes a lot of time and effort…sorry.
We should avoid terms like “it looks like“…That invites a conclusion that cannot be made without much more evidence. We can allow the more neutral “Appearance resembles Terrestrial Life or Plant Form X..Y..Z:“ which has a slightly different and more sensible, observational meaning.
This approach is perfectly OK – It is a common scientific practice during field observations to note similarities and striking characteristics of the observed fauna or flora. Often, after translation into Latin or Ancient Greek, an observed resemblance (to just about anything), forms part of the assigned species name in its binomial name as well as being incorporated into the informal appellation. For example, Hammerhead Shark, Humpback Whale, Duckbill Platypus, Crested Ibex, Robin Redbreast, Mejiro (white eye) and so on and so on…millions of examples like that. No suggestion of pareidolia do you hear for those scientific observers.
If we say “it looks like a worm” and someone cuts and pastes that and our analytical imagery onto YouTube as part of a monetising ploy, chances are the media report will say “Blog Finds Worm on Mars!!!!”…Everyone then thinks “Gordon Bennett…not another of these raving loonies!” They might look at this Blog but more likely they will only ever watch the much more spectacular YouTube version. This Blog gets a rep for sensational, unsupportable claims…I will be very sad about that. 😦
We don’t claim anything here. Instead we report a cMaLF as having a passing resemblance to say a Terrestrial Annelida…the impression is somewhat different.
If you are thinking of doing that “cut and paste” thing, please refrain. Share a link to this blog instead. Please stay the course with this Blog and keep the faith. See where this is going and why you should not cut and paste other people’s observations on to YouTube without understanding them 100%.
Again, we never claim discovery of anything on this Blog. We observe, report and discuss and,if a suitable system can be set up, we will archive our collective findings and that is all she wrote. Ho hum…another cMaLF bites the dust…!
We only ever suggest that these are candidate life forms giving our reasons for doing so…and then move on to the next analysis. It is not our job to prove anything and without our own Space Program we never will. We must stay grounded in reality no matter how weird this gets and it will get very weird.
BTW…you can confirm this observation of our “Willie the Worm on Mars” (OK, OK…just kidding! 😀 ) in other images from sol 618 . Here is one:
This a part frame LeftMastcam image and they provide multiple instances(~6 that I can find) that confirm the presence of our cMaLF but they are not much use at high magnification. We need other RighMastcam images…and luckily there is one but can you find it on your own?
So there are a number of other images that show this cMaLF (candidate Martian Life Form) but 2 is the minimum we need to confirm a sighting. This is usually not difficult as Curiosity usually shoots Left and Right Mastcam images and there are image overlaps. Occasionally NASA shoots a MCU(medium close up) with Left MastCam and CU(close up) with Right Mast Cam. These are probably the best images to start to study cMaLF. One image provides context and confirmation, the other provides details of the cMaLF.
There are at least 8 images that show our candidate on this sol… maybe more…can you find them all? We should do that because different angles of the same object might reveal more detail of the target cMaLF or, even better, its disappearance or movement from its original position…as that suggests motility and life!
Unfortunately, this is still only a possible cMaLF…It is not yet really a definite cMaLF because 5 years of searching has not yet revealed another complete example on another sol in another location. Why so strict about this requirement. On Earth a number of species have not been seen in decades let alone photographed. This is a potential candidate life form on Mars and the bar will be set higher. Not good news for our candidate I am afraid…(I really hope that this cMaLF was not the last of a dying species!)
Repeatability of observations are an absolute requirement for the classification of all cMaLF on this Blog. On the other hand, I have not found a “rock” yet with this appearance either so we cannot really call it a “rock” with certainty.
Maybe an Image Analysts on this Blog will find another example and we can then promote this sighting to a definite candidate life form. In other words, what we would then have is a definite maybe life form😀
Maybe NASA will one day consider our “maybe” cMaLF it in a cursory sort of way and quickly reject it, no doubt with averted gaze, shaking their heads and moaning “Not another one!”…consigning it, along with all the others, to their special “another looney waste bin”. 😀
Not a problem, because it is likely the members of this Blog will find hundreds, perhaps thousands more cMaLF, very easily, with impressive repeatability of observation, that will prove adequate for confident sightings. NASA had better get a industrial sized shredder!
Now for the difficult bit of the assignment! Double dare you! Select someone you know and trust who is sceptical about life on other planets (not bf or gf!)…Show them the images you have analysed and ask them what they think this object is. Record the answer. Ask them why they gave that answer. We only need their opinions. Don’t argue about it….just say “thanks, bye” or change the subject. If they say “Hey! That looks like life!” be non-committal (“Hmmm…yes…maybe…probably not though! It’s probably just another unusual rock!”)…Share the answers you get in comments please.
It is only fair to warn you, I will write a lot of stuff here and most people will believe is completely crazy. Please remember it is always based on observations. You can always check them for yourself. When I first made the observations I thought the same thing. Nuts!
Do not believe me, ever. All you have to do is test the observations. Prove them and me wrong. Go for it.
Do you feel odd to be chatting normally about candidate Martian life forms? Don’t! Get used to it…
At a recent conference in the Netherlands, an international audience of 250 Mars experts was surveyed about Martian life. ~ 75 percent of the scientists said they thought life once existed on Mars, and 25 percent thought that Mars harbors life today. There is a striking unanimity about that. Life on Mars? – Yes! Perhaps many of us here are 25%ers! (First dibs on the tee-shirt rights!)
If you don’t believe in the possibility of life on Mars, it might be time to update your views in line with those of the experts.
I am with those 25% of those scientists. I hope some of them come to this blog look and think about what they are seeing and go away and find some cMaLF of their own and stand up, claim them loudly and scientifically for their own. They will have to prove that they are life from still imagery. It will be interesting to see how they do that.
Here, it doesn’t matter who you are, or what your education is, if you have reasonable eyesight and a brain and understand English you are adequately equipped for this blog and most welcome here. We are on a level playing field.
All you need to do is dump your pre-held or learned prejudices and beliefs at the door. Here you will not be asked to do more that analyze imagery of Mars, observe and think carefully about what you have seen and then go on to consider what you can legitimately conclude from that observation…This is not about what you think you know or Googled and read on Wikipedia or saw on social media….It is about what you think. That is far more important!
If you want, you may, in due course, share your observations and your analytical images (not too many images please) but not here on this blog, as it is not easy to organise, but on a Facebook Group, when and if that is set up.
Please remember, no scientist, that I am aware of, has ever published a claim of finding a candidate life forms on Mars to date. It is reasonable to assume there are no experts who have identified candidate life forms on Mars (or anywhere else) using Image Analysis. They have been trying to do so for 40 years since the Viking Landers! I really understand their difficulties after 5 years of doing the same thing.
As it happens, I am a scientist, but alas only a Metallurgist, so that doesn’t really count as a scientist at all in the world of Astrobiology or Planetary Science.
I am certainly not an expert, nor would I ever wish to be thought one on life forms on other planets. Most of what I bring to the table is experience of analysing imagery (more than 40 years worth) as an Engineering Inspector and a Metallurgist. That means looking at an image that shows something I have never seen before, analysing that image in 10 seconds and understanding it well enough to accept or reject what I have seen. It is a routine ability shared by thousands of Inspectors and Metallurgists all over the world. So nothing special or unusual there.
I do, however, bring one more attribute to the endeavour but it sounds very bizarre. A conviction that I have been looking at candidate life forms on Mars for the last 5 years, as confirmed by 1,000s of repeatable observations from Mars imagery made during that time.
Many are indeed outrageously strange! It has taken me this long to to persuade myself to attempt to share the basic belief of cMaLF. I still don’t want to share the outrageous stuff. It sounds deranged even to me…nevertheless I will.
These are after all only ideas and the members will always have the option to check the observations and reach their own conclusions.
If I get something wrong and that can be conclusively proven I will retract my observation and conclusions. That is mostly because all observations of and conclusions about cMaLF are uncertain and you will soon come to understand why that is.
During all that time of looking at imagery and recording the results, there was never much serious thought of ever sharing that experience publicly. It would have finished me professionally I am sure. It has always been “just for me”, just an amusing, self indulgent hobby intended to keep my image analytical skills honed. Far more about a challenge in image analysis than the meaning of what I was looking at. While that was (and is) interesting, is not really something that increases my pulse rate any more than discovery of a new species on Earth might.
I had expected long ago, an announcement by NASA of the discovery of life on Mars. It has never come and at first I didn’t really understand why not.
NASA has some really brilliant people, and I figured from the get go they must be aware of cMaLF, in my view, since the time of the Viking Landers. Their image analysts are very competent indeed and I am amazed at some of the stuff they do find but surprised and depressed by so much of the stuff they do not.
NASA is government funded and operates within constraints. Public panic and so on…So I concluded that they were biding their time, waiting for the right time to make an announcement or until their research was conclusive. NASA may well be aware of candidate life forms in Mars imagery but cannot prove it convincingly from imagery alone.
Finally, it grows late in the day…manned missions to Mars loom on the horizon…sample return missions…There is no talk of extant life forms on Mars.
The observations on this blog will indicate some dramatically different possibilities…or not as the case may turn out to be.
Right or wrong, it is time to reconsider a outdated conclusion arrived at in the 1970s before extremophiles were understood or a variety of earthly organisms survived prolonged exposure in space outside the ISS.
Now is the time to start to try to explain what NASA has not commented on and yet is glaringly obvious in all imagery of the Martian terrain. The Blog will try to give serious consideration as to why and how there might be candidate life forms on Mars and what we are really seeing in that imagery.
This Blog will need to consider some of implications of that possibility as the observing, discussing and recording continues and those will be addressed in detail.
It became apparent recently in a little test, that a direct approach to Space Agencies, even through an intermediary, does not work. The best and only way forward now is to Blog the observations but with a difference. The difference is this Blog will enlist the help of the members, who will make and confirm observations of the candidate life forms for themselves. They can generate large amount of observations that support the proposition that cMaLF exist in Mars imagery…or they could disprove that. Both are useful outcomes.
Yes, I will share my thoughts and deductions from the image analysis but instead of the opinions of one, I hope that there will be a steady accumulation of multiple, stringently evaluated observations from members, carefully considered, recorded along with the rational and independent opinions of an entire blog of all persuasions…the good the bad and the ugly, the pros and the cons…but not ever, the abusive.
Is this a fruitless undertaking? Maybe, but I believe it is not, and that we can together harvest a wealth of useful and meaningful results.
NASA and other space agencies do anything they like within budgetary constraints and political oversights. The Public has no say at all in that and probably they are not interested in most of it but some of the issues…Well, they may affect us all. Is that acceptable? I believe it is not. How will people feel about sample return missions and manned exploration if cMaLF turn out to be the real deal?
All of the NASA imagery is freely available to all. It has cost a considerable amount of Public money. It is there because of the extreme efforts of the NASA teams, engineers scientists, manufacturers, mission specialists and a cast of thousands and the best cutting edge technology of the age. It deserves to be analysed with care and attention. It merits our interest and our respect.
It is intended to stay within the bounds of current scientific knowledge during the discussion of observations and not indulge in science fiction or fantasy. That does not mean this will be dull…science has some pretty off the wall ideas these days. We will be looking at some of those.
I will try to provide useful hints and suggestions that may help blog members in their efforts to replicate some of my observations using the same methods I have used and then to go on an make their own solo observations. I am a form of calibration…that is all.
Some will, if they are good at observing and recording detail, have no problems recognising candidate life forms in the imagery analysed. Many more will struggle for many reasons. They might not want to believe in candidate life on another planet or are fearful of what they might see. They may believe this is a trick or an intricate practical joke. They may be disappointed, expecting something more obvious and glamorous that resembles humanity. Others may have vision problems for instance poor differentiation of colour tones that prevents them from seeing cMaLF well. Usually they are quite difficult to see.
Women are often far better than men in this area (my wife in a clothes shop for example can always find the perfect colour combinations in seconds). At least two women in the world that I am aware of have been extensively tested for this ability and have been proven to be able to detect an astonishing 100 million different shades of colour!
Meanwhile 8% (1 in 12) of men are colour blind (versus 1 in 200 women) and men are fortunate to be able to differentiate between only 1,000,000 different colour tones. Sorry guys…we are not ever going to outdo the ladies in this area without some tinkering with our DNA. Suck it up guys and smile. I do.
Each blog will present the blog members with an assignment. After completion of that assignment my observations will be shared on the subsequent blog after each assignment. I will explain my conclusions about my analysis of the images.
These explanations should not ever be considered as representing truth only possibilities. Feel free to dispute them but please have an alternate you can prove ready. We will all want to hear that.
I am not looking for the agreement of others. The opposite is the case. I want and expect to hear the very different thoughts of others on these observations not only my conclusions (which are often, of necessity, highly speculative).
So do use the comments section or just click like if you agree and pollice verso if you don’t.
ALL of what we find here will only ever be suggested as candidate life forms.
Analysis of still imagery alone is unlikely to be, sufficient as stand alone proof of an alien life form. If scientists are ever to be convinced that a candidate life form might be the real thing, It is the Astrobiologists and the Planetary Scientists who will have to face the daunting task of how to prove that. Frankly, better them than us. They may have to figure out a new basis for life first.
Right now perhaps the best, and most exciting bet is organo-silicon which was first researched in 2016 when microbes were coaxed into producing 20 organo-silicon compounds, 19 of which were previously unknown to science. A Nobel Prize moment if that ever proves to be a viable and actual basis for life elsewhere. It does open a door to some intriguing possibilities, not the least of which is organo-silicon life forms might not need water. For now it remains a subject for much more research.
Finding what you think is a candidate Life Form on Mars is easy… convincing yourself and other people of what you have found is not. You do not have NASA stamped on your forehead so what do you know about what a life form looks like on Mars?
A very good question…for all of us…and I have to observe that it is clearly equally puzzling conundrum for NASA, and every Astrobiologist or Planetary Scientist considering the subject of life on Mars and elsewhere at this time. They have no idea about that either, apparently but here the blog members will consider and have the opportunity to explore some new possibilities. Actually, a new one every blog apart from the first three that consider this maybe cMaLF.
See you next time…Thanks very much for taking the trouble to come here and struggle through my tedious prose. You may feel like this was time wasted…my sincere apologies if that was the case. Time is your most valuable commodity. Unfortunately, in the early stages we have to cover a lot of ground to get people on the same page.
I hope, nevertheless, that you enjoyed your visit and you had fun finding your first candidate life forms on Mars.
Please take good care of yourself and the others around you. Please do come again…you will always be welcome here.
PS – You’ll get another assignment at the next blog as we take the next stumbling step in Image Analysis for candidate Life Forms on Mars. We will try to up our game and come face to face with the ultimate challenge…
Can we observe something that is nearly invisible?
PPS – One last point…The ideas expressed on this Blog are, naturally ours.
Nevertheless, any real discovery made here does not belong to us or any one person. The discovery belongs morally and ethically only to the Space Agency and the Project Teams that worked so very hard to get the data and were kind enough to share their imagery with us, and the Taxpayers who paid for all of it. No data, no observations…
All this Blog will attempt to do is help analyse their data. They probably don’t want the help or need it but it’s here if they ever do. It is the least we can do to try to help. It’s payback for what they have given us…A remarkable chance to observe other planetary bodies in our solar system up close. They should receive all the acclaim they richly deserve and none of the ugly conspiracy nonsense that is laid at their door so persistently.
I am one of NASA’s greatest fans. I spent my teenage years engrossed in Apollo missions to the moon. NASA do a lot of remarkable and interesting research that may help us to save our planet from an asteroid impact or global warming.
That said, I will always try to be evenhanded. NASA is not above criticism and they should be criticised constructively more than they are. They make mistakes like all of us. Some of those mistakes have, unfortunately, cost lives. What they do is intrinsically high risk and always cutting edge and often hampered by budgetary restraints and cutbacks. Despite this, their achievements, and Curiosity is among those, are unmatched.
Many of these observations will challenge NASA in different ways but it is hoped that those criticisms will always be viewed as constructive and that NASA will be the better for them.