'Alien' Boulder Piles on Mars Have NASA Scratching Their Heads
If you're looking for examples of balance and symmetry, look no further than nature. Here on Earth, there are countless examples of nature's tendency to form patterns, but as a new image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows, that sense of order is not exclusive to our planet.
Posted on NASA's website earlier this week, the image was taken to track the movement of sand dunes (those wavy shapes on the right and bottom center of the image) across the planet's North Pole, but a closer look revealed piles of boulders stacked on the surface "at regular intervals." Conspiracy theorists and UFO enthusiasts are already wondering if it's the work of aliens—and in this case, can you blame them? This is one of the strangest things we've ever seen on the Red Planet, and being weird is kind of Mars' thing.
Obviously, we didn't send a team of astronauts or robots there to stack rocks just for the sake of a cool photo, so how exactly did they get this way?
NASA used a more domestic and slightly more familiar example to explain the cosmic phenomenon.
"In the Arctic back on Earth, rocks can be organized by a process called 'frost heave.' With frost heave, repeatedly freezing and thawing of the ground can bring rocks to the surface and organize them into piles, stripes, or even circles. On Earth, one of these temperature cycles takes a year, but on Mars it might be connected to changes in the planet's orbit around the Sun that take much longer."
Frost heave is strong enough in some places to ripple concrete roads and push other natural and man-made formations out of the way, but on Mars it apparently just creates beautiful rock art.
It's an explanation that makes sense, mostly because they're the experts and there are no other non-alien theories out there yet for us to grab onto and believe wholeheartedly. It would definitely be a lot more exciting if Wall-E was real and if he was busy organizing piles of boulders on Mars this whole time.