A popular May 2022 post on Reddit that claimed NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover captured a photograph of an alleged “portal” and a “wall nearby that looks artificial” on the red planet was as incredible as it seemed.
That was because while something depicted in the grainy, black-and-white version of the photograph taken by a camera aboard the rover could be interpreted to resemble the shape of a door, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) told Snopes that it actually was a “very, very, very zoomed in shot of a tiny crevice in a rock.”
“The team’s scientists underlined just how small [the crevice] is: roughly 30 centimeters wide and 45 centimeters across (11 by 17 inches),” a JPL spokesperson said via email. “They said there are linear fractures throughout this outcrop, and this is a location where several linear fractures happen to intersect.”
The photograph was taken by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) outfitted aboard Curiosity, a system that uses fixed-focal length, multispectral imagers to capture “true color” images of the red planet and beyond. The “door” image was captured on May 7, 2022, which is also Sol 3466 — the 3,466th solar day on Mars, or a Mars-day.
NASA media relations team also referred us to a publicly available, digital mosaic of photos that the rover also captured. Neville Thompson, who is not affiliated with NASA, created the piece, which showed contents of the in-question image within the broader marscape.
The tiny “door” (crevice) can be seen roughly dead center, up a little, and a bit to the left.
“See it? You can zoom in with the +/- on the right side of the screen. It’s very small and looks like … a crevice in the rock,” the spokesperson wrote.
While we can’t say for certain whether Martians indeed used itty-bitty, little doors, NASA was sure that the “door” in this instance was just a small rock crevice. So, while the Reddit post displayed an authentic photo captured by NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover, the photo did not show either a portal or an artificial wall. As such, we rated this claim as “Miscaptioned.”
Want more fact checks about weird and wacky Mars rumors? Check out these:
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Bell III, James F., et al. “The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover Mastcam Instruments: Preflight and in-Flight Calibration, Validation, and Data Archiving.” Earth and Space Science, vol. 4, no. 7, 2017, p. 396452. pubs.er.usgs.gov, https://doi.org/10.1002/2016EA000219.
“Does This Photo Show a Hole Drilled on Mars?” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/photo-hole-drilled-on-mars/. Accessed 11 May 2022.
kinger90210. “NEW: 2022-05-07 A Formation on Mars Which Appears to Be a Portal and a Wall Nearby That Looks Artifical. Image Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech. Mars Rover.” R/Interestingasfuck, 11 May 2022, www.reddit.com/r/interestingasfuck/comments/umyqdy/new_20220507_a_formation_on_mars_which_appears_to/.
mars.nasa.gov. “Sol 3466: Mast Camera (Mastcam).” NASA Mars Exploration, https://mars.nasa.gov/raw_images/1064629. Accessed 11 May 2022.
MSL 3466 MR. http://www.gigapan.com/gigapans/229311/. Accessed 11 May 2022.