NASA hasn't had a week like this since Viking 1 photographed the so-called "Face on Mars" . . .
A mysterious beam of light spotted by the Mars Curiosity rover has UFO enthusiasts over the moon, leading the space agency to release an official statement quelling Internet rumors of alien nightclubs and secret underground civilizations.
Taken April 2 and 3, the images in question feature a vertical white speck shining up from a distant Martian hilltop. NASA experts remain committed to several simple explanations, like an unusual sunlight reflection or a glitch in a camera nearly 60 million miles from Earth.
"Sure NASA could go and investigate it, but hey, they are not on Mars to discover life, but they're there to stall its discovery."
But for conspiracy theorists and alien enthusiasts, the white blips are only further photographic evidence of life on Mars — something they allege the United States government wants to keep under wraps for reasons unknown. Noted UFO bloggers like Scott C. Waring point to the manner in which the light appears to emanate directly from the barren landscape.
"This could indicate there is intelligent life below the ground and they use light as we do," Waring wrote Monday on his UFO Sightings Daily website, which includes a host of Curiosity images showing Martian rocks shaped like statues and humanoid faces.
"This is not a glare from the sun, nor is it an artifact of the photo process . . . Sure NASA could go and investigate it, but hey, they are not on Mars to discover life, but they're there to stall its discovery."
In a statement released this week after the speculation over the lights grew, Justin Maki of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory insists that that white spots like these are not uncommon in the thousands of images regularly sent from the Mars rover. He says similar visual anomalies are seen by the Curiosity team "nearly every week," most of which are likely caused by cosmic rays or sunlight reflecting off rock surfaces.
Maki, who help build Curiosity's stereoscopic camera system, also notes that the white spots were only seen in one of the camera's two "eyes." As such, researchers have struggled to pinpoint the exact source of the bright light — giving UFO fans a kernel of hope.