At first it certainly looks like a door.
A grainy image captured by NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover in May 2022 shows a formation in the planet’s rock that social media users have seized on as some kind of alien doorway, suggesting it shows the presence of life.
“Mars Curiosity Rover photo appears to have found a doorway,” reads a headline from a website called “Good News Network.”
“NASA released this Mars Rover photo of an apparent doorway on Mars,” said a Facebook post containing the image.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat fake news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Learn more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but although NASA captured the image at the center of this claim, they did not find a secret alien doorway on Mars.
Space officials and Mars experts said the formation is an unremarkable natural crevasse that matches many other sights on the planet.
The complaint was sent in a Twitter thread written by the NASA-run Curiosity Rover account which called the formation a natural geological feature.
“Some of you may have noticed this image I took on Mars. Sure, it may look like a small doorway, but in reality, it’s a natural geological feature! It may just *look* like a doorway because your mind is trying to make sense of the unknown.
Some of you noticed this image I took on Mars. Sure, it may look like a small gate, but it’s actually a natural geological feature! It may just *look* like a doorway because your mind is trying to make sense of the unknown. (It’s called “pareidolia”) https://t.co/TrtbwO7m46 pic.twitter.com/VdwNhBkN6J
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) May 18, 2022
It’s pretty common for people to see patterns in rock shapes that look like one thing or another, said Andrew Good, a spokesman for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“It’s called pareidolia, and despite all the sensitive science instruments on the rover and the hundreds of scientists on the mission working with our data, we haven’t seen anything that isn’t easily explained,” Good said. . “Sometimes it’s weird shapes in the rocks, sometimes it’s ‘bad pixels’ that leave jagged marks on some images.”
William Dietrich, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies landscape shape and change, said the perceived gate is the result of rock movement.
“You can see the feature is a result of a block of rock falling, leaving a wedge-shaped cavity, and you can see the back of the cavity,” Dietrich said. “Another image (which) covers a larger area on this hill shows many more examples of loose blocks. Moving these loose blocks downwards could lead to such a cavity.
NASA shared additional images of the area and said the rover used its mast camera on May 7 to capture the photo of the mound of rock, dubbed the East Cliffs.
The mound, located on Mars’ Mount Sharp, has a number of natural open fractures, NASA said.
The opening featured in the posts is approximately 12 inches high and 16 inches wide, the same size as a dog door. The image shared online was enlarged, officials said, making the formation appear much larger than its actual size.
“This type of open fracture is common in bedrock, both on Earth and on Mars,” the organization said.
NASA says Curiosity, which has been on Mars since 2012, is currently studying an area of Mount Sharp that may contain evidence of a major shift from wetter to drier conditions early in the planet’s history.
Social media posts claim that NASA released an image showing a gate on Mars, suggesting life on the planet.
NASA officials and Mars experts have released a photo of a rock formation that, from certain angles, looks like a door-like structure. But NASA has dismissed claims that the formation is proof of extraterrestrial life and said the opening is an unremarkable natural crevice that matches many others on the planet.
We rate these posts as fake.
This article was originally published by PolitiFact, part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for these fact checks here and more of their fact checks here.