The nearly rectangular, upright boulder found in NASA images of the Red Planet, bears a striking resemblance to the monoliths seen in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
The strange object was first noticed years ago after being photographed by the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a NASA space probe.
The internet is still buzzing about it, though, and no one seems to be able to agree on what it is, exactly.
According to Jonathon Hill, a research technician at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University, who processes the images snapped during NASA’s Mars missions, the object just seems to be a rectangular boulder.
The HiRISE camera has a resolution of approximately 1 foot per pixel, which isn’t bad given the 180-mile altitude from which it snaps its photos, but it isn’t quite sharp enough to capture the finer points of a giant boulder.
“When your resolution is too low to fully resolve an object, it tends to look rectangular because the pixels in the image are squares. Any curve will look like a series of straight lines if you reduce your resolution enough,” Hill told Life’s Little Mysteries.
The location of the rectangular boulder at the bottom of a cliff near several other boulders would seem to imply that it snapped off the cliff and fell to its current location sometime in the distant past, Hill said. Such a risky location is another argument against the rock’s creation by extraterrestrials.
“If I was going to build a monolith somewhere, that’s the last place I would put it!” he said. “The debris falling from the cliff would cover it up pretty quickly, on geologic timescales.”
Hill added that the height of the Mars monolith is being exaggerated by the low angle of the sun in the photo.
Technically, the rock is a “monolith,” Latin for “one stone,” but this one wasn’t built by E.T.