Old News: NASA Did NOT *Just* Release 2,540 Stunning New Photos of Mars (And The First Pic Is Fake)

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Old News: NASA Did NOT *Just* Release 2,540 Stunning New Photos of Mars (And The First Pic Is Fake)

Did NASA 'just' release 2,540 stunning new photos of Mars? And does the first one show a crater that appears to be filled with liquid water? No, that's not true. The series of photos currently going viral was released a long time ago, back in 2016. And the first picture in the set (the one showing liquid water) was only added later but it is at least from 2008 and possibly older.

The pictures recently went viral again through a gallery published on June, 6 2018 titled "NASA Has Just Released 2,540 Stunning New Photos of Mars" (archived here) which opened:

If it's quiet solitude and beauty you seek, there is no better place than the surface of Mars. Mars has earned its moniker as the red planet, but the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) can transform the subtle differences of soils into a rainbow of colours.

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail so they would have thought it was a new gallery, just released, perhaps as a result of the recent InSight Mission mission which touched down on the red planet only a few days ago:

NASA Has Just Released 2,540 Stunning New Photos of Mars

If it's quiet solitude and beauty you seek, there is no better place than the surface of Mars. Mars has earned its moniker as the red planet, but the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) can transform the subtle differences of soils into a rainbow of colours.

It didn't help that the date at the top of the article was strategically shortened to "Sunday 3, 2018", omitting the month.

But the exact same pictures already appeared in November 2016:

Escape Election Day hell with 2,540 gorgeous new photos of Mars

Tuesday marks the 58th quadrennial US presidential election, bringing to a close one of the most contentious campaign seasons in memory. Which means you're probably stressed out of your gourd and looking for escape while the votes roll in. If it's quiet solitude and beauty that you seek, then there is no better place than the surface of Mars.

That article continues:

If it's quiet solitude and beauty that you seek, then there is no better place than the surface of Mars.

Mars has earned its moniker as the red planet, but the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) can transform the subtle differences of soils and into a rainbow of colors:

In other words, the entire story and the pictures were copied and republished. It is not the first time this happened, we found about 20 other sites that also had more or less identical copies of the story.

If you are really interested in recent Mars pictures from HiRISE, you should check out this page at the University of Arizona which has all of them. Since the time the original gallery/article was published an estimated 12,000 new pictures have been added so you might have some catching up to do.

Which brings us to the first picture in the copied gallery, the one with the water. It seems it was added as a header image somewhere in 2017 but in fact it has been going around the internet since at least 2008:

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The first discovery of liquid water on Mars was announced only this year and the water was actually contained under a polar cap:

Liquid water 'lake' revealed on Mars

Researchers have found evidence of an existing body of liquid water on Mars. What they believe to be a lake sits under the planet's south polar ice cap, and is about 20km (12 miles) across.

Wherever the 2008 photo came from it can't have been real or it would have been the greatest scientific discovery on Mars so far.

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  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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