Are There Alien Ruins In The Solar System?
For as long as mankind has lived in communities, he has left remains behind for archaeologists to discover. This might comprise of nothing more than an outline of a hut, ash from a fireplace or pottery remains. The most spectacular remains are the giant ruins left behind by the great builder civilisations of Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Americas.
The pyramids of Egypt (left)are the most famous ancient ruins on Earth, but there are many more ancient sites that tell the story of humanity across the globe. Many of these were only discovered after painstaking archaeological research, but others were in plain sight.
From above, complexes, such as Teotihuacán in Mexico and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, stand out from the surrounding landscape, testaments to humanity's ingenuity and technical prowess. But are they great feats of engineering unique to our planet? Have we discovered ruins elsewhere on the other planets of our solar system?
It seems an insane proposition, but photographs returned from space probes offer tantalising glimpses that our earthly relics may not be totally without precedent. Join me as I voyage through our sun's family and explore some of the most intriguing images ever captured by science.
The nearest body to Earth is the Moon and it is here that we shall begin. This is the last place you would expect to find ancient ruins. Everybody knows that the Moon has no atmosphere and, as far as we know, it never has. How, then, can it contain structures that seem to indicate the presence of a long-gone intelligence?
In the mid-Sixties, the Lunar Orbiter probe snapped many images of our only natural satellite. One in particular attracted the attention of anomalists (those who seek anomalies). In one photograph, there appeared to be an object sticking up from the lunar surface to a height of seven miles! Dubbed The Shard or The Tower, it has become a subject of great controversy.
It is a genuine feature, of that there is no doubt, you can see its shadow casting to the right, but is it an artificial structure? There are other explanations, of course. It may be some sort of outgassing from the Moon (although if it were, it would be a unique phenomenon) or could it be a plume of dust from a meteorite impact?
Another unusual feature on the Moon is known as the Blair Cuspids. These intriguing structures are located on the western edge of the Sea of Tranquillity and are 'officially' explained as boulders that cast long shadows because of the terrain and the low angle of the sun. Independent researchers, though, claim that the official explanation does not answer all of the 'problems' with the Cuspids and that they actually are tall, spire- or tower-like structures on the Moon.
If The Shard and The Blair Cuspids are artificial structures, who built them and why? There are other features that anomalists have claimed depict artificial constructions, such as glass domes, geoglyphs, a suspended castle-like structure and even a huge bridge, but the photographic evidence for these is open to much interpretation, in my opinion. The features I have focussed on are there, clear and tangible, for all to see.
Our next stop is the planet Mars, a world long thought to contain life. Wells' invaders hailed from the Red Planet and the respected astronomer Percival Lowell had claimed that he had glimpsed canals criss-crossing its russet surface.
When the Mariner probes arrived in orbit of Mars in the mid-Sixties, hopes of finding complex life were dashed. A cratered, lunar-like landscape disappointed many, but the story hadn't ended when it appeared that Mars was a dead world.
Some of the Mariner images seemed to show what looked like pyramids on Mars. Even the late, great Carl Sagan referred to them as pyramids and compared them with those of Sumer and Egypt. Not only that, the probes also found evidence that great rivers had once flowed across the surface. Perhaps Lowell had not been so wrong after all!
Perhaps the most famous anomalous feature on Mars is the Cydonia Face. This enigmatic structure was first found on low resolution images taken by the Viking orbiters in the 1970s. It captured the imagination of the general public and seemed to many to conclusively prove that there had once been intelligent life on Mars. Facial symmetry was noted, even though half of the face was cast in darkness, and some enthusiasts even claimed to be able to make out an eyeball, nostrils and even teeth in the mouth.
When the Mars Global Surveyor probe parked itself in orbit in 1997, the anomalist community held its breath. Would the higher resolution cameras on MGS prove that the Face was a huge sculpture, or just a normal hill, a mesa with human-like features caused by tricks of light and shadow, as the experts claimed.
The first image emerged in 1998 and caused howls of derision from face enthusiasts. Dubbed 'the catbox', because of its similarity to a cat's litter tray contents, the image was possibly the worst that could have been released to a hungry public.
We had to wait three more years for a better, high resolution image. This one split opinions right down the middle. Many claimed that this new picture proved that The Face was nothing more than a mesa, bearing no resemblance to a humanoid visage, while others said that it still showed features present in the old Viking photos i.e. an eyeball, a nostril and teeth in the mouth. The previously dark right side of the feature could now be seen and even this divided opinions, with some saying that the symmetry still worked.
The latest image from Cydonia, taken by the THEMIS camera aboard the orbiting Mars Odyssey probe, shows The Face in context with nearby structures. Here we can see The Face, the five-sided D&M pyramid (named after its two discoverers, Vince DiPietro and Greg Molenaar) and the area known as The City, where researchers claim they have found geometry that could not have happened by the chance of nature.
Mars is replete with anomalies and it seems that every new image throws up something new for everybody to scratch their heads at. Below are a few for you to ponder about:
Even the moons of Jupiter have been scrutinised by anomalists, with icy Europa drawing most attention. This body is one of the best candidates for life in the solar system. beneath a thick, ice crust, it is believed that a deep ocean exists and life may dwell in those murky depths. It's the fractured surface, though, that has attracted attention. Some have claimed that geometric shapes can be seen in the cracks, shapes that cannot occur in nature.
Beyond Jupiter lies Saturn and its splendid system of rings. This gas giant has more moons than any other planet in the solar system and its family are amongst the most intriguing and mystifying.
Titan is the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere. A recent landing by the Huygens probe found a freezing, snowy surface, but no oceans of hydro-carbons, as posited by some, optimistic boffins.
Mimas looks like the Death Star from the Star Wars movies, with its huge impact crater, Herschel.
Enceladus appears to clean its landscape every so often, suggesting that an internal heat source causes liquid to erupt through its icy surface.
Of all the Saturnian moons, though it is Iapetus that has caused the most intrigue. Its discoverer, Giovanni Cassini, deduced way back in the seventeenth century that one side of this moon was darker than the other, as he could only see it on one side of Saturn (tidal locking causes most moons to keep one face towards their parent planet at all times). When the Voyager 2 probe passed Iapetus in 1981, it confirmed Cassini's observations. In fact, the dichotomy between the two hemispheres was so marked that it became known as the Yin-Yang Moon!
What the new images showed stunned scientists and explanations are still being sought today. Towering twelve miles above the surface, a huge ridge spans the entire dark hemisphere of Iapetus. It follows the equator perfectly and maintains a regular width along its length.
While scientists attempt to explain it as an unusual, yet natural, feature, some researchers are suggesting that Iapetus may in fact be an artificial structure in itself, perhaps a massive, ancient space station from a long-lost civilisation. Indeed the images from Cassini do seem to show that Iapetus is less spherical and more polyhedral in shape, with its horizon appearing to consist of straight edges rather than graceful curves.
If Iapetus does turn out to be an artificial construct, it would be the greatest discovery of all time, but I suspect a natural explanation will be found.
We have taken a tantalising glimpse through some of the anomalies within our solar system, but we are left with more questions than answers. If these are ancient ruins, who built them? Was there an ancient Martian civilisation that built pyramids? If so, what does this mean for us on Earth? Did these Martians realise that their planet was doomed and relocate to a nearby planet that could sustain them? A blue-green planet that we call Earth? Did they send out explorers to the far reaches of the solar system, building colonies as they went? Is Earth the last remaining colony? Are we the descendants of Martian refugees?
Or was there an advanced civilisation from Earth that travelled into space, building these structures as it went, only to die out or slip back due to some great cataclysm?
Or are the ruins, if that is what they are, remnants of completely alien origin from beyond our solar neighbourhood?
Or is it all wishful thinking?
© 2005 Steven Johnson
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Updated 16th August, 2012