The Cydonia Institute
Through NASA’s own photographs the truth will be revealed
The Cydonia Institute                                                                                                  Vol. 13  No. 1   ◘
The 2010 HiRISE Color Face 
by George J. Haas
December  2010

On July 28, 2010, the University of Arizona HiRISE team released a "false color" image of the eastern, feline side of the Face on Mars in a massive media blitz. Most major news agencies announced that NASA had acquired new evidence that the famous Face on Mars is just a rocky mesa and posted the tightly cropped detail of the Face that was provided by the University of Arizona. Fox News presented the new color image along with an early Viking shot of the Face that included some of its surrounding landforms (Figure 1).  The Fox article reported the following; “[The] new image just released by NASA confirms what the space agency has said all along: That's no face on Mars. It's just a rocky mesa”.1 The caption accompanying the two images read as follows; “At left, the famous 1976 image from Viking that seems to show a face. On the right, a new image of the same rock surface. taken from much closer and in higher resolution, the features completely disappear.”2

Figure 1

Comparative Viking and Color HiRISE images of the Face

Left: Original Viking image (1976)

Right: New false color HiRISE image of The Face on Mars (2010) 

Unfortunately, there are many problems that arise in the way these two images were presented to the public by Fox News and the various news reports that used the same comparison. First of all, the paired images mislead the viewer by suggesting that this newly released HiRISE image shows the entire Face formation and includes the mesa seen directly below it, just as we see in the original Viking image. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although actually fully colorized, the new photograph does not include the entire Face image and as we will see it isn’t even a new picture. However, at this point NASA hopes the reader will be convinced that the Face on Mars is just an illusion and will move on…nothing to see here.

Now, if the viewer is not completely confused and discouraged at this point hopefully the reader will seek a link to the University of Arizona web site to get more information. Once there, they will find the same, colorized image of the Face that is apply titled “Popular Landform in Cydonia Region” (Figure 2). The short article accompanying the image, which is written by HiRISE project leader Alfred McEwen,3 totally ignores the fact that the posted image is actually a small detail and he only passively acknowledges that the original image was taken in 2007. Alfred McEwen provides the following text;

HiRISE captured this image (in 2007) of an eroded mesa made famous by its similarity to a human face
in a Viking Orbiter image with much lower spatial resolution and a different lighting geometry.”4

Figure 2
University of Arizona 2010 false color version of the 2007 HiRISE Face (Thumb nail)

So, after seeing the same image, the reader assumes that the only difference between this new color image and the 2007 image is the color. Any reader unfamiliar with the navigating hurtles of the UA web page would be hard pressed to discover additional links to the original 2007 image and much larger colorized version. However, once found - they would quickly realize that the image on the main page is only a small detail of the eastern side of the Face (Figure 3).

Figure 3
The Face on Mars – MRO HiRISE false color image PSP_003234_2210 (2010)
Detail of the eastern, feline side.
Image source: NASA/JPL/UA 

When the new 2010 colorized image5 of the eastern side of the Face (Figure 4.A) is compared to the highest resolution picture obtained by NASA’s MOC camera in 20016 (Figure 4.B) and the European Space Agency’s 2006 false color image7 (Figure 4.C) - it becomes quite clear that the eastern facial features are consistent and appear to be permanent structural formations (Figure 4). Looking at all three images, note the broad forehead and a crown feature is observable in each image. Notice the rectangular, squinting eye, the muzzle and zig-zag shaped mane is present in all three images. Also notice that each image shows evidence of a parted mouth and flailing tongue (Figure 4.D).

A                                              B                                             C                                            D
Figure 4
Comparison of three views of the eastern feline side of the Face on Mars
A: Detail of MRO HiRISE false color image PSP_003234_2210 (2010)
B: Detail of MOC image E03-00824 (2001)
C: Detail of the ESA false color perspective view (2006)
D: Analytical drawing

So what prompted the University of Arizona HiRISE team to revisit a three year old image of the Face on Mars and manipulate it by cropping it and colorizing it and then release it as a new image? – Could it be the 33 years that separate it from the two original 1976 Viking images?


1. Face on Mars or Rocky Hill? New Photo Reveals Truth, Fox, Air & Space, July 30, 2010.

2. ibid.

3. Dr. Alfred McEwen is a planetary geologist and director of the Planetary Image Research Laboratory (PIRL). He is the principal investigator of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

4. Alfred McEwen, Popular Landform in Cydonia Region (PSP_003234_2210), July 28, 2010,
The new HiRISE picture is actually a colorized version of a MRO HiRISE image that was originally released on April 11, 2007.

5.Popular Landform in Cydonia Region (PSP_003234_2210), The University of Arizona HiRISE, July 28, 2010,

6.  Highest-resolution View of “Face on Mars,” Malin Space Science Systems, Inc, May, 2001,

7. Cydonia - the face on Mars, European Space Agency, Mars Express, September 21, 2006,
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