What Exactly Was the “Mars Face”?

An image so powerful NASA spent 20 years debunking it.

This summer, an odd shape in one photo of the moon led some to conclude a man, or perhaps an alien, had posed for an orbiting camera. The shadowy man joined several other objects recently “discovered” from photos of Mars, including a thigh bone, an iguana, a cat, two dinosaurs, and jelly doughnuts.

Every photo in question was quickly explained, but for NASA, armchair conspiracies never really die. In 1976, a photograph of the Cydonia region of Mars showed something so powerful it inspired movies and TV shows decades after it was debunked. The video above considers the strange, enduring legacy of the “Mars face.”