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SYFY WIRE Resident Alien

Are These Weird Martian Rocks Debris from an Alien Spaceship?

Bizarre structures on Mars could be remains of alien spacecraft, but probably not.

By Cassidy Ward

At this point, there's little debate that life must exist somewhere else in the cosmos. In fact, the more we look, the more it looks like the universe is a pretty favorable place for life of all different kinds to emerge. Which makes it seem like we should all have our very own Resident Alien (streaming now on Peacock, btw), and yet, no one has given us an intergalactic housewarming yet. Rude.

Still, that hasn't stopped astronomers from going door to door, as it were, looking for the aliens ourselves. One of the most promising locations, and the planet where we've placed most of our efforts, is Mars. Curiosity has been roving the red planet for more than a decade and it was joined a few years back by its sister-rover, Perseverance. Earlier this year, after 10 years patrolling Gale Crater, Curiosity beamed images of a strange rock structure back to Earth, which scientists say *might* be the remains of a crashed alien spacecraft.

Crashed Martian Spacecraft or Bizarre Geologic Formation?

The image received from Curiosity in April 2023, looks pretty normal at first glance, just a bunch of rocks scattered over an alien desert landscape. But look a little closer and you'll find a series of long, slender spikes sticking out from the side of one rock, like ribs protruding through an abdomen.

RELATED: Did the Curiosity Rover Find Alien Bones on Mars?

At the time, Nathalie Cabrol, an astrobiologist with NASA's Ames Research Center and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) said it was the most bizarre Mars rock she had ever seen.

Subsequent observations revealed at least five other Martian rocks with similar spike-like, wedge-like, plate-like, or serrated protrusions, all arranged within close proximity to one another. Curiosity has also photographed structures which appear to be wheels, an axle, and a cratered debris field. It's the sort of things that puts light in the eyes of conspiracy theorists and gets scientists a little excited, too. Those rock formations were the subject of a recent paper published in the Journal of Astrobiology.

The most likely explanation for the strange rock formations is ordinary weathering, but they might also be structures built by microorganisms or, of course, the scattered debris of a crashed spaceship. Researchers also considered the possibility that they were caused by debris from a spacecraft not from the stars, but from Earth.

Bone-like structures jut from a Martian rock

To date, more than a dozen spacecraft have been sent from Earth to orbit Mars, some of which have crashed to the surface or will in the future. And there are some craft, such as the Soviet-era Mars missions whose fate is unknown. Bottom line, there are up to 10 crashed spacecraft on Mars, plus jettisoned equipment like the Skycrane used to lower Curiosity and Perseverance to the ground, which might cause the sort of debris field and structures Curiosity observed. However, scientists say that explanation is unlikely as there are no known craft which would have crashed in the area and the structures don't resemble anything we might have sent.

Similar structures called sand spikes form on Earth when water and sand are impacted by seismic activity. They are also built by some kinds of microorganisms, opening up the possibility that these are the fossilized remains of extinct Martian life.

RELATED: Mars May Have Had Microbes Similar to Early Life on Earth

On Earth, we can tell the difference between the two kinds of sand spikes by looking at their internal structures. Finding broken spikes and peering into their innards could answer the question definitively.

“There is no way of proving for certain what the spikes are, but the balance of the evidence would suggest ‘sand spikes’ resulting from seismic activity on Mars. I suspect the enigmatic ‘wheels’ are a separate phenomenon. Mars images often show strange formations and features which ‘look like’ familiar objects," Professor Richard Armstrong, first author of the study, told the Telegraph.

The study authors went on to conclude, "It seems highly improbable that these are photographs of an extraterrestrial space craft, even if it long ago c[r]ash landed and broke into sections. On the other hand, there are debris that resemble wheels attached to an axle, and a debris field and crater that have been photographed in Gale Crater, although there is no records of any craft from Earth crashing in this vicinity. One can only speculate about extraterrestrial origins."

Catch the first two seasons of Resident Alien in their entirety, streaming now on Peacock!