The Mars Curiosity and Opportunity rovers are sending back photographs of anomalies on the planet’s surface that may or may not be evidence of Martian life, alien visitors or just plain weird stuff. And they just keep coming. A photo from the Curiosity rover appears to show the head of a crocodile while one taken by Opportunity looks an awful lot like a Celtic cross.
Lets view the crocodile first. British amateur astronomer Joe White analyzes NASA’s photo releases daily and he was the first to see the rock that looks like a crocodile in a picture sent back earlier this year. It was taken by the six-foot-high right hand side mast cam on the Curiosity Rover. Is it a statue of a real Martian croc that would be solid proof that the planet was once covered with enough water to keep reptiles happy? Not likely. Even Joe thinks it’s just an unusual rock.
The Celtic cross is another story. The photo was taken by Opportunity’s microscopic imager camera on July 12. “Microscopic” is the key word here – the cross inside a circle on a rock is indeed microscopic. This could be an indication that Martian inhabitants or alien missionaries were small – after all, the cannon and cannonball found in other photos were tiny as well. Even though the cross is tiny, some say they can see letters "T" and "B" on its corners and other think the rock formation it’s on looks like a sword handle. More realistically, it could be the fossilized remains of tiny creature or an unusual crystal formation.
Then there’s the skeptics who point out that the circular cross shape looks an awful lot like the imprint of the type of screw-head used in Opportunity’s Alpha particle X-ray Spectrometer tool, which just so happened to be in use there. A plausible explanation if the ground is soft, but not for solid rock.
Wait a minute – couldn’t miniature Martians have miniature tools with miniature screws as well?
The votes so far are a ‘no’ on the croc, ‘still thinking’ about the Celtic cross and ‘keep looking’ for Joe White.