(May 1, 1998) -- As promised, the Mars Global Surveyor once again turned its high-resolution camera toward the controversial landforms at Cydonia on April 23 and delivered a clear, well-lit image of the "Main Pyramid" and "City Square," two features of considerable interest to Cydonia researchers.
However, the MGS camera failed to capture the "Fortress" which lies slightly northeast of the Main Pyramid. After the "Face," the "Fortress" was the object of greatest interest to those who believe the landforms at Cydonia may be artificially constructed.
Having now fulfilled a promise to make three imaging attempts over Cydonia during the month of April, NASA has no further plans to photograph the area until 1999. But NASA chief administrator Daniel Goldin told CNN science correspondent John Holliman that the MGS would, in due course, send back more pictures of the Cydonia region, "until everyone is satisfied."
Depending upon who one asks, the new Cydonia images show nothing but obviously natural geological features; or they offer strong corroborating evidence of artificial structures; or they prove nothing one way or another.
Professor Stanley V. McDaniel of the Society for Planetary SETI Research, one of the strongest proponents of possible artificial structures on Mars, indicated in an essay posted to his web site (http://www.mcdanielreport.com/) that the latest image of the City shows features that "appear consistent with a natural geological interpretation."
McDaniel pointed out that the four small mounds comprising the "City Square," which in the 1976 Viking photo appear highly regular, are seen in the much clearer MGS image to be non-uniform in shape and non-symmetrical in placement. Similarly, the large "Main Pyramid" has the appearance of a small mountain, not a large building.
Many voices echoed this assessment. Typical was a statement issued by David Watanabe of exoScience UFO (http://exosci.com/ufo/), who wrote, "I think all can agree that the images returned by MGS show no signs of artificiality. These formations are, as far as we can tell through visual observation, quite natural."
McDaniel, however, did note several odd smaller features on the Pyramid that seem more angular and symmetrical than expected of natural formations. "There is a peculiar feature at the NE corner of the [Pyramid] that should demand geological investigation. This is a cluster of two or perhaps three nearly rectangular outlines that may be enclosures of some sort," McDaniel said. Another nearby object has the distinct appearance of a nearly perfect square inside a very circular crater.
Meanwhile, other Cydonia researchers were not at all ready to admit disappointment. Richard Hoagland, who had earlier accused NASA of withholding data when the agency released the first MGS image of the "Face," now says that the structures in the third image offer impressive evidence of artificiality.
"Early enhancement of MGS image 25803 reveals multi-layered 'room-sized' cells underneath the long-eroded surface of the 'Main Pyramid,'" Hoagland states at his website [http://www.enterprisemission.com/images/mars/]. Furthermore, he theorized, "The latest MGS image reveals the center of the Cydonia Complex -- the 'City Square' -- to be a series of four high-tech, glass-like pyramids... heavily in ruins."
While no other Cydonia researcher seems ready to join Hoagland in this degree of enthusiastic speculation on the City features, physicist Tom Van Flandern issued a statement last week in which he stated that the new MGS image of the "Face" -- disappointing to many -- has convinced him beyond reasonable doubt that that structure is artificial.
Thus, the debate goes on. Certainly the MGS images did not deliver the kind of evidence that Cydonia researchers had hope for, and many had expected. On the other hand, neither did those images entirely dismiss the theory of artificial structures at Cydonia. Indeed, further scrutiny may tend to bolster the hopes of the more cautious researchers such as McDaniel and Dr. Mark Carlotto.
That -- and whatever new evidence may come in 1999 -- remains to be seen.
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