Bright ‘tower’ in Mars orbiter image: Anomaly or natural formation?

The bright object seen by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Daily Mail

With thousands of images taken by various probes sent to Mars, it would seem inevitable that unusual or puzzling objects might be seen in some of them. And of course, there have been, most notably the famous “Face on Mars” first seen in low-resolution Viking orbiter images in the 1970s. Higher-resolution images taken later by other orbiters with better cameras showed it, and nearby interesting formations, to be just natural hills and mesas. Despite that, other curious things are seen in both orbital and ground images from time to time, although they almost always have a simple prosaic explanation. Another such oddity was just recently seen in an image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has attracted some attention. Most likely it is a natural rock formation, but it’s also not, as described by the tabloid Daily Mail, a “spherule” either.

The image shows a bright object casting a long shadow across the floor of what might be a dried-up lakebed. Some observers have said it might be a tower or spire, judging by the long shadow, but the view is from directly above and not enough detail can be seen on the object itself. The object does stand out for its brightness, but little more can be said about it. Using Occam’s Razor, it is most likely a natural geological rock formation, and not an alien tower, but it also can’t be a round “spherule” as referred to. The spherules seen by the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers are tiny, only a few millimeters across, way, way too small to be seen from orbit. If at all sphere-shaped, it is much bigger than that. Simply being round or tall also wouldn’t prove it was something artificial.

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