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Saturday, April 4, 1998 Published at 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK


Mars faces up to the cameras
image: [ Unlike this clear image of Mars, the only pictures of the face are indistinct ]
Unlike this clear image of Mars, the only pictures of the face are indistinct

New pictures are due to be beamed back from Mars which could solve the mystery of the "face" on the planet.

Fresh images from a Nasa probe orbiting the planet are expected to be beamed to Earth on Sunday.

While most scientists agree that the face, with its apparent eyes, nose and mouth, is nothing more than a trick of the light or a rock formation, doubters insist the feature is manufactured and evidence of advanced life on Mars.

A number of pyramid-like mounds around the face, in the Cydonia region of Mars, have also been said to look manufactured.

Dr Carl Pilcher, the acting science director for Solar System exploration at Nasa, says most scientists believe that everything seen on Mars so far is of natural origin.

[ image: The Global Surveyor spacecraft is now encircling the planet]
The Global Surveyor spacecraft is now encircling the planet
"However, we also believe it is appropriate to seek to resolve speculation about features in the Cydonia region by obtaining images when it is possible to do so," said Dr Pilcher.

The astronomer, author and former Nasa consultant, Dr Tom Van Flandern, recently wrote a paper citing evidence for the face being manufactured.

He pointed to the bi-lateral symmetry of the face, its three-dimensional structure, the lack of irregular patterns normally seen in natural objects and the non-random distribution of the nearby mounds.

Images of the face taken by the two Viking probes in the 1970s were blurry and indistinct.

Nasa's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft is expected to send back close-up images of the region late on Sunday.

However, because of uncertainties in the spacecraft's orientation and path, there is only a 30% to 50% chance that the face will be included in the pictures.

The images will be posted on the Internet in an effort to make all the information available because Nasa has previously been accused of concealing evidence about the face.

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