Mysterious ‘gate’ photographed on Mars by Curiosity rover puts Internet Atwitter

Mysterious ‘gate’ photographed on Mars by Curiosity rover puts Internet Atwitter

Is this a mysterious door to an underground necropolis captured in a photo of the surface of Mars taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover?

Uh, probably not.

The grainy image, now viral, shows what looks like a rectangular opening in the rocky surface of the red planet that looks like a portal into the unknown. As scientists quickly debunked claims of otherworldly architecture, Twitter users had fun with the image.

“I left the door open to our secret base on #March“, one user tweeted.

“Oh, hey, look, it’s totally kinda door for little aliens that totally exist, like, on March!” tweeted another.

NASA has released no official statement on the image, perhaps preferring to leave earthlings to speculate.

The image was captured May 7 by the rover’s Mastcam as it climbed Mount Sharp. Although it looks big enough to fly a saucer through, it’s really less than a foot tall, experts say.

“It’s just the space between two fractures in a rock,” Mars Science Laboratory scientist Ashwin Vasavada told Gizmodo. “We passed through an area that formed from ancient sand dunes.”

UFOofInterest.org, which investigates sightings of UFOs, aliens and related phenomena, said the formation is really not out of place on the planet’s rocky surface.

“Looking at it in context as part of the whole mosaic, we can see this little niche in a rock with other boulders, fractures, shapes and other erosive features all over this rock face,” tweeted the space detective site.

Vasavada said it formed after dunes were compacted together and then buried and unearthed over time as the sand on Mars’ surface shifted. The process puts the sandstone under pressure, causing it to fracture in different places.

“The fractures we see in this area are usually vertical,” he told the outlet. “I think what we have here [is] either two vertical fractures, where the middle piece was pulled out, or one vertical fracture, and the blocks moved apart a bit,” Vasavada said.

By zoom in, viewers can see that what looks like a cave is actually just a shallow area where a wedge of rock has fallen in to create the illusion. It’s reminiscent of Cydonia, the so-called “face on Mars” that fascinated humans in the 1970s, but turned out to be just a hill on the surface of the planet.

Curiosity has been working around Mars since 2012, when it landed in what’s known as Gale Crater. During this period, it traveled only 17.3 miles in 3,472 Martian days.

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