What is the mystery light on Mars? Distant ‘glow’ seen in Curiosity rover’s latest photo

Jonathan O’Callaghan

A strange white speck of ‘light’ on a recent photograph taken by Curiosity rover has led some to believe that life is thriving on Mars.

UFO blogger Scott Waring claims that the new photograph taken by the rover suggests there are intelligent creatures living underground.

But Nasa, perhaps rather unsurprisingly, are not quite heralding it as the discovery of the century just yet.

What is the mystery light on Mars Distant 'glow' seen in Curiosity rover's latest photo

The Curiosity rover is currently exploring an area of Mars known as ‘the Kimberley.’

Named after a region of western Australia, the area sees four different types of rock intersect and is scientifically fascinating.

The particular spot the rover is in ‘gives us a great view for context imaging of the outcrops at the Kimberley,’ Melissa Rice of the California Institute of Technology said in a release.

Over the next few weeks, Rice will be leading the science for the rover as it drills and analyses rocks at the location.

But it’s not the fact that a car-sized vehicle is exploring an alien world 57 million miles (92 million km) away that piqued the interest of Waring.

Rather, what appears to be an anomaly in a photo has caught the attention of him and other UFO enthusiasts.

Enhance: Closer up it's not any clearer what the light source is, but it's probably just an anomaly in the photo

Enhance: Closer up it’s not any clearer what the light source is, but it’s probably just an anomaly in the photo

‘An artificial light source was seen this week in this NASA photo which shows light shining upward from… the ground,’ Waring writes on his website.


The rover’s top speed is 1.5 inches (3.8 centimetres) per second.

Curiosity is the fourth rover to visit Mars.

It took around seven minutes to land on the Red Planet.

The rover is fitted with 17 cameras.

It weighs about the same as a Mini Cooper at approximately 2,000lb (900kg).

Scientists considered 60 possible landing sites before deciding on Gale Crater.

‘This could indicate there is intelligent life below the ground and uses light as we do.

He goes on to claim: ‘This is not a glare from the sun, not is it an artifact of the photo process.

‘Look closely at the bottom of the light.

‘It has a very flat surface giving us 100 per cent indication it is from the surface.

‘Sure Nasa could go and investigate it, but hey, they are not on Mars to discover life, but there to stall its discovery.’

According to NASA, however, the bright spot is not that unusual.

Curiosity takes images using two cameras, one in its right eye and the other in its left.

While the image from the right eye shows this bright spot, the same image from the left eye does not.

Now you see it, now you don't: In a image taken by Curiosity's other camera at the same time the bright spot has disappeared, suggesting it was merely a glint or an artifact in the first photo

Now you see it, now you don’t: In a image taken by Curiosity’s other camera at the same time the bright spot has disappeared, suggesting it was merely a glint or an artifact in the first photo


‘One possibility is that the light is the glint from a rock surface reflecting the sun,’ a NASA spokesperson tells MailOnline.

‘When these images were taken each day, the sun was in the same direction as the bright spot, west-northwest from the rover, and relatively low in the sky.

‘The rover science team is also looking at the possibility that the bright spots could be caused by cosmic rays striking the camera’s detector.

‘Among the thousands of images received from Curiosity, ones with bright spots show up nearly every week.’

Ben Biggs, editor of All About Space magazine, says we should not jump to any conclusions when seeing images like this.

‘While the “light” is as yet unexplained, it’s quite a leap to assume that it has an intelligent source,’ he says.

‘The public can afford to speculate wildly but Nasa is an organisation internationally renowned for credible science.

‘It needs to exhaust every other likely explanation before it can begin to explore less realistic phenomena.’

Curiosity has been operational on Mars since August 2012 and is entering a key science phase of the mission

Curiosity has been operational on Mars since August 2012 and is entering a key science phase of the mission

This is not the first time a photo from Mars has incorrectly caused some to declare we’ve made first contact.

One famous occurrence was the ‘Face on Mars.’

On 25 July 1976 Nasa’s Viking 1 orbiter released an image of a region called Cydonia that seemed to show a human face on the Red Planet.

In reality it was nothing more than a phenomenon known as pareidolia, where the human brain picks out faces in an object, in this instance a chance aligning of shifting sand.

In 2006, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) imaged the region and again and showed that the sand had continued shifting, erasing the ‘face’ from the surface.

The 'Face on Mars' taken by Viking 1The face on Mars was revealed to be just a sand dune years later

In 1976 the Viking 1 orbiter snapped an image of a region of Mars that looked like a human face (left), leading some to claim it was a sign of intelligent life, but 30 years later it was proven to just be a sand dune (right)

Over the next few weeks the Curiosity rover will perform some of its most extensive investigations on Mars since it landed in August 2012.

Once it has examined this region of Yellowknife Bay it will continue its journey to its ultimate destination of Mount Sharp.

This fascinating geological region will provide scientists with a multitude of data about the history of the Red Planet.

And they may even be able to prove that the planet was once habitable enough for life to exist.

But it’s unlikely they’ll detect any life currently residing on Mars.

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