by Mike Bara
from DarkMission Website
Note: This article was originally intended for inclusion in our current book “Dark Mission: The Secret History of NASA” but had to be removed due to space considerations.
It appears here in a modified version to accommodate Internet publication
Gee, what a surprise.
Finally, after more than 20 years of waiting, we’ve been given the first legitimate color images of Cydonia. On September 21st, 2006 the European Space Agency released the latest HRSC (High Resolution Stereo Camera) color imagery of the Cydonia region of Mars. Unlike their earlier release, which was taken in December 2004 under less than ideal conditions, this one came captioned and with a politicized article that emphasized the usual non-arguments against the Face on Mars.
Taken on July 22nd 2006 under much better lighting conditions and from straight overhead, these 13.7 meter per pixel images (designated 305-230906-3253-6-co1 and co2) provide the best overview yet of the area that has come to be known as the “Cydonia complex.” What they reveal is a stunning landscape that is strongly confirmative of almost all of this investigation’s previous predictions. In many ways, because they are color, these two stereo images are far better than supposedly higher resolution images generated by MGS.
In fact, what’s quite clear from examining these new images is that the previous Mars Global Surveyor images of the Face (and Cydonia) leave a lot – quite a lot – to be desired.
Let’s start with a brief review of the concept of spatial resolution in remote sensing data. Most of us assume that an image with a stated resolution of 1.2 meters per pixel is automatically “better” than an image of 13.7 mpp, such as these new Mars Express images. Most of the time, that’s true. But there is a lot more to it than that. If the 1.2 mpp image is grayscale, meaning 8-bit data, it by definition carries less information than a 16 or 32-bit color image.
Further, all kinds of conditions - atmospheric haze, lighting (sun) angles,, camera settings, the optical properties of the camera, the filters being used, the incidence angle of a nadir-pointing camera - can all dramatically affect the quality of the resulting image.
A good case in point would be the infamous “Catbox” image of the Face on Mars.
The example above is the so-called “TJP enhancement” of the “Catbox” image of the Face, taken in 1998. While it is unquestionably the best enhancement of this image to date, it is of very poor quality.
According to the Malin Space Science Systems website, the image has a spatial resolution of 4.3 mpp, making it by far the best image of the Face to that point. However, this stated resolution only takes into account the maximum possible resolution, based on the camera optics and the altitude above the target.
The image was in fact taken after the spacecraft had already passed over the Face, from a 45 degree angle to the west, and with the sun at a fairly low morning sun angle of 25 degrees above the horizon, lighting the Face from below. In addition, MSSS had stripped out at least 50% of the data by using an exceptionally large image swath (see “Honey, I shrunk the Face” 1998), and haze and cloud cover made for very poor lighting conditions.
The result was an extremely dark, low contrast image which didn’t come close to the imaging capabilities of the MGS camera. Vince Dipetro, an early pioneer of Face research, concluded that with all the factors included, the effective spatial resolution of the image was 14 mpp, as opposed to the stated 4.3 or the optimum 1.2 mpp capability of the camera under ideal conditions and altitude.
By contrast, the new ESA images were taken from directly overhead, at close to minimum altitude, under full daylight conditions with virtually no cloud cover, and in 24-bit color. Beyond that, unlike any of the previous missions, the HRSC is able to take images almost side-by-side, one after the other. The results were impressive.
The two stereo images, taken just moments apart, provide the best overview of the Face and City we have received from any mission so far. Both frames capture the Face, Fort, D&M and the City in high resolution color.
The first image (305-230906-3253-6-co1) provides the added bonus of capturing the Cliff in the lower portion of the frame, and a substantial amount of the anomalous “mesas” north of the Face first noted by Hoagland in Monuments. What this all amounts to is that these images are without a doubt the best wide-angle view we have ever gotten of Cydonia.