Okay, let's start by admitting the word monolith is ambiguous. There are “monoliths” on every rocky planet and moon in our solar system. A monolith is basically any stone block. Whether naturally created or chiseled by intelligent entities, they are a common occurrence. The problem with using the word monolith is that people immediately picture an old dilapidated ruin carved by the hands of an ancient civilization that may not necessarily be terrestrial. This is not the case. So why is the monolith on Phobos so special?
Phobos is one of two small moons orbiting Mars. It was named after the mythological son of the Greek god Ares (Roman god Mars) and was the personification of fear. Why they didn’t call this moon Timor, the Roman equivalent, is a mystery to me. Its mean diameter is only about 12 miles (22 km)1 making it about the size of a fairly large city. From what we could tell there wasn’t anything particularly exciting about it in its current state… at least not until Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, mentioned the mysterious object in a now famous interview on CSPAN.
Buzz stated that the monolith was natural and the “universe put it there”. I took this at face value. But, like clockwork, immediately after the interview whispers of aliens began to echo through the hemisphere. While to me it looks like an odd shaped rock, others saw conspiracy. So, what is all of the commotion about?
Let’s quickly make some notes on this blurry image. Yep, it is a rock alright. But I do have to admit it is a very unique rock. The top is estimated to be around 279 ft (85 m)2 in diameter. Judging by the shadows, and keeping in mind the likely angle of the light source, I would say it is quite tall.
I believe it is safe to assume from this image that the object is taller than it is wide. Notice that a slim line of light flows down the side. This also highlights a fairly straight edge. Also, notice how there isn’t any evidence of impact. This suggests that the monolith didn’t crash into the surface, at least not recently. Phobos lacks an atmosphere3 and seems to have no geological activity. An impact crater would not simply disappear under these conditions.
Some people have speculated that it could also be a pyramid, though I find this highly doubtful. From the monolith's shadow we can tell that the top of the object isn’t flat, but it does seem to be a little rounded. The shadow cast from a pyramid at this angle would have a point.
Below is a more recent image taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It is odd how the craters have now vanished and we see more rubble around the base. This may be evidence of an impact, but why isn’t it clear in the original image? Why are the craters gone? The angle of the light seems to be a little higher, but this wouldn’t cause the complete disappearance of every crater.
I think it is safe to say that while it is just a rock, it is an interesting rock. We see a pale rectangular object that immediately catches the eye. It is protruding from an overall flatter surface, at least enough to easily catch your eye. I’m also not convinced that the above image and first image are of the same object. There have been a few other odd protrusions found on Phobos, but none quite as fantastic as the one we see here.
Finally I would like to conjecture why alien beings wouldn’t place an artificial monolith on a moon of Mars. As we are almost certain there are no advanced alien civilizations inhabiting our solar system, the beings would have to have come from a different system, or even galaxy. So they must have the technology to jump solar systems, but they only leave a rectangular rock on a moon orbiting a lifeless planet (as we know it)?
Some may argue that Phobos may have been free floating around space and was eventually captured by Mars. This is a legitimate theory that many scientist support, but it would be hard to believe that an ancient super-intelligent civilization placed a small innocuous object on an asteroid.
With Earth so close, why focus on the small asteroid-like moon of Mars? Earth would no doubt be the primary observational target, as scientists believe life started extremely early on this planet. Even if Mars was developing similarly to Earth, why not put a device on our moon? And the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey doesn’t count!
Is this monolith naturally occurring or was it placed by an intelligent, yet seemingly shy, extraterrestrial civilization? Maybe it is time to send a rover and finally settle the debate. I’ll allow Sigmund Freud to sum up my thoughts on the matter.
Sometimes a rock is just a rock.
If you browse the gallery of the MRO, there are way more interesting images with even more of an “alien” feel. This one only gained focus due to Buzz Aldrin's remark, otherwise it would be buried with all of the other monoliths found. I’ll just leave this here:
See more amazing image from the MRO here.
- "Mars: Moons: Phobos". NASA Solar System Exploration. 30 September 2003 http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/phobos/facts
Looks like a rock to me! Conspiracy theorists sometimes have good points, but not with this subject!