The enigma of Mars continues to captivate scientists and space enthusiasts alike. The latest curiosity? An unusual formation of spikes, plates, and wedges protruding from rocks on the Martian surface. Could these be remnants of an alien spaceship crash? While it’s a thrilling prospect, scientists are careful to explore all possibilities.
The Martian Discovery:
In April, NASA’s Curiosity Rover captured images of these intriguing formations on the floor of the Gale Crater, a 96-mile (154 km) wide depression on Mars. Dr. Nathalie Cabrol, an astrobiologist at the NASA Ames Research Centre and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) Institute, described it as “the most bizarre rock” she had seen in her two-decade-long study of Mars.
The Theories Behind the Formations:
A recent paper published in the Journal of Astrobiology suggests that these formations might be “sand spikes.” These are known to form on Earth in water-logged sands during strong earthquakes of magnitude seven and greater. Similar rock formations have been found in south Germany’s north Alpine basin and near the San Andreas fault in southern California.
However, the researchers also mention that they cannot entirely rule out the possibility of these being fragments from an extraterrestrial or terrestrial spacecraft. This speculation is fueled by the presence of what appear to be wheels, an axle, and a debris field in another part of the Gale Crater.
The Continuing Martian Mystery:
Professor Richard Armstrong of Aston University, Birmingham, the first author of the paper, suggests that while the evidence leans towards ‘sand spikes’ resulting from seismic activity on Mars, the enigmatic ‘wheels’ are likely a separate phenomenon. He also notes that any debris field on Mars would certainly suffer erosion over time, especially from wind.
In the images taken by Curiosity, at least six rocks are shown with strange protrusions, including one with 11 evenly spaced spikes. Wedge-shaped objects resembling shark teeth can also be seen below the spikes, as well as plates or boards that appear to have embedded spikes.
The Speculations Surrounding the Martian Formations:
Earlier, it was speculated that the strange objects were fossil fish bones, dinosaur bones, or caused by weathering through Martian winds. Many suggested that they could be the remnants of a crashed Mars orbiter or discarded equipment.
However, in the new paper, experts say it is unlikely the strange objects were linked to human craft because they do not look like anything sent from Earth. The authors write, “One can only speculate about extraterrestrial origins.”
The team suggests that although “sand spikes” are a plausible explanation, the Martian protrusions do not have the same bulbous ends as spikes on Earth. Unlike Earth spikes, Martian spikes are also sometimes serrated.
The experts say the spikes could also be linked to activity by tiny microorganisms on Mars, because they are close to features reminiscent of fungi or microbialites – layered rocky structures formed by communities of microbes.
The mystery of these Martian spikes continues to intrigue scientists. Whether they are the result of natural geological processes, the remnants of an alien spaceship, or evidence of microbial life, only further exploration and research will tell. Until then, Mars continues to hold its secrets close, fueling our curiosity and our quest for understanding the universe.