Interesting Photo of the Day: Mysterious Bright Light Photographed on Mars

Long have we speculated about life on other planets, and on Mars in particular. Could there really be other intelligent beings somewhere out there amongst the stars? We might never know for certain, but images like this photo captured by NASA’s Curiosity Rover—as it explored the Red Planet on April 3—will likely forever keep us wondering:

curiosity rover mars mysterious alien light bright white sun planet outer space galaxy moon

Strange bright light captured by Mars Curiosity rover’s right-eye camera. (Via NASA. Click for larger image.)

NASA is actually very accustomed to seeing “bright spots”—like the one in the upper left of the photo—in Curiosity’s images and reports seeing them nearly every week. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, since it means no Independence Day or War of the Worlds) the real explanation for the bright spot has nothing to do with aliens. Scientists attribute them to sunlight reflecting on distant rocks or cosmic rays hitting Curiosity’s CCD light detector. (Via PetaPixel)

Justin Maki, a team leader and camera operator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California does admit, however, that the bright spot in the above photograph presents a unique situation.

The Curiosity rover, which has been tasked with exploring Mars and aiding scientists in a study about habitable past conditions and environmental changes at various waypoints, is equipped with two navigation cameras (NavCams), the “right-eye” and the “left-eye.” These two cameras work together to capture images of the same subject or setting roughly one second apart, but from two slightly different perspectives.

“Normally we can quickly identify the likely source of a bright spot in an image based on whether or not it occurs in both images of a stereo pair,” said Maki. “In this case, it’s not as straightforward because of a blocked view from the second camera on the first day.”

Here is the photograph from the left-eye camera, where the bright spot is notably missing:

curiosity rover mars left-eye right-eye red planet

This image was captured with Curiosity’s left-eye camera one second after the right-eye image. (Via NASA. Click for larger image.)

Was the bright spot a sudden flash of light that might prove the existence of aliens on Mars if the source location could be pinpointed? Probably not, NASA scientists say. Images taken at around the same time of day from a different location on April 2 yielded similar results (view them here and here), and the afternoon sun is directly behind the rover in all four images, so that “sunlight glinting off of rocks” theory seems pretty sweet.

Besides, an intelligent life form wouldn’t emit telling flashes of light in full view of a human space rover, would it? That is, not unless it wanted to be found…

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