Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

July 22, 1995

The Face on Mars
Picture Credit: NASA,Viking Project,

Explanation: This image, showing what looks to be a human face sculpted on the martian surface, was produced using data from NASA's Viking 1 orbiter in 1976. Described in a press release as a "face-like hill" it caused some to offer the sensational speculation that it was an artificial construct built by an intelligent civilization on Mars! As a result, this image was splashed across the covers of many grocery store tabloids at the time. A detailed analysis of multiple images of this feature reveals a natural looking martian hill whose illusory face-like appearance depends on viewing angle and angle of illumination.

For more information about the picture see the NSSDC Photo Gallery of Mars.

For a detailed discussion of the "Face on Mars" see the Face on Mars page, and APOD for April 7, 1998

Tomorrow's picture: M20: The Trifid Nebula

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.