The photo of a geological formation on Mars has gone viral on social media, prompting apprehensive comments and wild theories about its appearance.
Many users saw it as a “door”, while others ventured on assumptions about whether an extraterrestrial civilization could create a “passage” on the red planet.
But what is shown in the photo taken by the Curiosity rover, which has been sending information about Mars since it landed there in 2012, has a more logical explanation.
According to NASA, the American space agency, it is a matter of perspective.
Origin and explanation
On May 7, NASA published a new photograph of the ground on Mars that the Curiosity rover’s Mast camera recorded.
The US space agency identified the image as part of the “Sol 3466” series that was published in several frames on the Mars Exploration Program website.
Since publication, some users have started to theorize about its shape and its “door” or “passage” appearance.
But this particular image is only one part of a series that, seen in its entire composition, changes the perspective of its dimension and form.
“It’s a very, very, very enlarged photo of a small crack in a rock,” NASA explained to BBC News Mundo, the BBC’s Spanish-language news service.
In the following image you can see the composition that makes up the entire 3466 image series and how small the fissure is in that Jezero Crater rock, which the Curiosity rover explored in recent weeks.
Scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory highlighted how small the crack is, at about 30 cm wide by 45 cm long.
“There are linear cracks throughout this outcrop, and this is a place where several linear cracks intersect,” NASA explained.
A ‘curious’ crack
Several experts have evaluated the record in recent days.
Neil Hodgson, a British geologist who has studied Martian landforms, says that while it is a “curious image”, it is not mysterious.
“In short, it looks like a natural erosion to me,” he told Live Science.
The strata, that is, the rock layers that can be seen in images like this, are beds of silt and sand.
“They were deposited about 4 billion years ago in sedimentary conditions, possibly in a river or on a windblown dune,” Hodgson said.
Soil fractures can form such cracks naturally. In this case, a vertical crack intersects with strata or layers to form such cracks.