Great news: Alien base discovered on Mars via Google

An extraterrestrial palate cleanser via I Hate the Media. On any other day this would be the weird story du jour, but coming as it does during Weinergeddon, it’s a distant, distant second. Full Weiner-esque confession: I’m nerdy enough that I actually downloaded Google Mars and checked this guy’s coordinates to confirm that the anomaly he found really is there. And yep, it is. I figured it was either (a) a digital artifact created by Google’s software in stitching together satellite photos to form a spherical Martian surface, (b) some sort of “easter egg” inserted by NASA or Google into the program that would, say, play the YouTube clip of “Star Wars kid” if you stumbled across it and clicked on it, or (c) the mother of all monoliths.

The truth, it turns out, is … out there:

Has Martines really found evidence of alien life, or a secret space base, as he and some media sources are claiming? No, say experts: “Bio Station Alpha” is simply a glitch in the image caused by cosmic energy interfering with the camera…

As a cosmic ray passes through a camera’s image sensor, it deposits a large amount of its electric charge in the pixels that it penetrates. If the particle passes through at a shallow angle to the plane of the camera, it affects several pixels along its path. The result is a bright streak on the image.

The digital compression software that converts the image into a JPEG file then “sort of smears out the image, giving it that pixelated look,” McEwen said. What started as a clear streak in high-resolution turns into a streak that, in the armchair astronaut’s words, looks like it is “made up of cylinders.”

Ten days after it was posted, this thing has gotten almost a million views on YouTube. Two clips for you, one of “Bio Station Alpha” and the other of “Ski Station Beta.” The latter’s a parody. Or is it?