No, that's not a secret alien base on Mars

After one intrepid Google Mars user reported spotting a structure on the surface of Mars, the Internet at large took it way too seriously, as the Internet is wont to do. But someone actually bothered to ask the guy in charge of one of the telescopic cameras currently orbiting Mars what the deal is, and his take probably won't surprise you. Or maybe it will.

"It looks like a linear streak artifact produced by a cosmic ray," said Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist at the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona and the director of the Planetary Imaging Research Laboratory. McEwen is the principal investigator of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a powerful telescope currently orbiting Mars. "With space images that are taken outside our magnetosphere, such as those taken by orbiting telescopes, it's very common to see these cosmic ray hits. You see them on optical images and a lot of the infrared images too."

If you want to do a little fact-checking on your own, Google is not the only public resource for high-resolution images of Mars. This link will take you to an image browser that should be more or less centered on the spot in question, and it'll let you look at raw images from THEMIS, a thermal emission imaging system aboard Mars Odyssey. Or click here to browse through images from the camera on Mars Global Surveyor. Even if you don't want to check facts, the imagery is breathtaking, so spend a few minutes clicking around the Global Surveyor high res images and prepare to be blown away.

So that's the end of that, right? Unless... Unless NASA got to him first. I mean, think about it: all these scientists are probably getting government funding, which basically means that they're being paid to keep quiet about the CIA's secret Mars Alien Welcome Center Resort & Spa. And now that it's been discovered, you can bet that a couple tons of Mars-colored roof tiling will be on the next NSA spaceplane out there, which will likely be launching from Area 51 in the next few minutes. Syfy — DVICE's parent — is probably in on the whole thing, too, 'cause if there are real aliens, nobody's going to want to watch TV shows about fake aliens, so if I get fired tomorrow and you never hear from me again, you'll all know why. Tell my story! Don't let them get you! Hold on, there seems to be someone at the door, I'll be right back.

Via Space.com

Full disclosure: Evan Ackerman is a Mars expert.

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Thanks Andy!