Guest Commentary

Red Sky Conspiracy?

by Bill Hamilton

I remember seeing the first published photos from the Viking Lander on Mars in 1976. I was struck by how blue the Martian sky was and how it resembled the skies of earth.

Within 24 hours these images were said to be color-corrected by JPL showing that the true color of the Martian sky is pink or red.

Remember asking that childhood question: Why is the sky blue?

The air molecules in our atmosphere more readily scatter the higher-frequency blue light than the lower-frequency red light. At dusk less of the scattered blue light reaches our eyes while the longer rays of red light penetrate.

Pictures taken on Mars by various robot probes show a sky in shades of orange, pink and tan. This is because the atmosphere of Mars is very thin and dusty or so we are told. Scattering is dominated not by gas molecules but by reddish dust particles.

Now from

"Ron Levin, an MIT physicist said that he was a 20-year old grad student and was at JPL when the first color images came in from the lander. He said those original images showed a blue sky and rocks with greenish patches on them, and that the Viking imaging team quickly adjusted the images so that the sky and the rocks all had the reddish color we're familiar with. Levin made it clear that there was no scientific justification for these "adjustments", and he speculated that the color was changed because the planetary scientists took a dim view of the greenish patches on the rocks, which suggested some primitive form of plant life might be growing right on the surface.

Ron Levin also said something else that surprised me: that the Hubble Space Telescope had taken images of Mars that showed a blue sky. I checked the HST web site.

Sure enough, every last one of the higher-resolution images of Mars shows a bluish band around the limb of the planet that looks very much like a blue sky. Also, the Hubble scientists issued periodic weather reports on Mars up to the Pathfinder landing, and these reports explicitly predicted that Pathfinder should see a blue sky."

This is not the first time someone has pointed to discrepancies in NASA data as we all know. In my book, Cosmic Top Secret, I mentioned the cloud formations photographed around the Olympus Mons shield volcano. The clouds appear to appear at an altitude of 15,000 ft. or more. How are clouds suspended in such a thin Martian atmosphere which has a surface pressure of 8 millibars? And what are these clouds composed of? CO-2?

What if (just speculating) Mars had a thicker atmosphere than that reported by NASA, an atmosphere thick enough to scatter blue light? What are the implications?

We, of course, rely on NASA to give us the straight dope on planetary conditions because we do not have the means to check on it directly.

Hmmm...where are those Martians now anyway?

Bill Hamilton
Executive Director
Skywatch International, Inc.


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