White 'light' spotted on Mars not caused by aliens

This photo was taken by NASA Mars rover Curiosity on April 3, 2014. Some theorize the white speck...

This photo was taken by NASA Mars rover Curiosity on April 3, 2014. Some theorize the white speck in the distance is artificial life, and may indicate signs of intelligent life on the planet. (Photo: NASA/QMI Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:48 PM ET

A speck of white on the horizon of a photo taken by the Mars rover Curiosity has some theorizing it is a light, possibly being used by intelligent life on the Red Planet, though scientists aren't biting.

The photo was taken April 3 and shows a white speck in the distance.

The website UFOSightingsDaily.com theorized it was "an artificial light source" which "could indicate there is intelligent life below the ground and uses light as we do."

The website says it is unlikely to be glare from the sun or a photo processing error. And while NASA has not officially commented on the photo, astronomers are providing a simple explanation.

Former Hubble Space Telescope team member and astronomer Phil Plait explains on his blog that the camera's electronic CCD sensor was simply hit by a cosmic ray -- a charged particle -- as it was taking the picture.

"When a cosmic ray slams into the electronic detector in the camera, they deposit some energy in the pixel (or pixels) where they hit. These detectors are designed to detect energy from incoming light, and they can't tell the difference between a cosmic ray hit and a photon coming from a distant star. All they do is register the energy," he writes.

Moreover, a second camera on Curiosity taking a photo of the same landscape at the same time did not detect any lights.

Plait also points out that these camera "artifacts" are commonplace when taking photographs in space -- outside of Earth's protective atmosphere and magnetosphere -- and even Curiosity itself has been impacted by this before.

Curiosity is now located in an area called the Kimberley, where the most extensive investigations of the mission are set to get underway to learn about environmental changes and whether the area was ever habitable.


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