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This image, M04-00291 (found by Hoagland) is certainly the most extraordinary. Located in an ancient ocean bed which has rifted apart due to some sort of cataclysmic stress are nothing less than a series of interlocking, reinforced and still intact translucent, glass-like tubes!

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Reinforced by regularly spaced, cylindrical arches, this clearly defined translucent structure seems to be running along a hollowed out section of the former ocean floor. The clear "glass" tube can be easily seen running the length of the rift, and there is a distinct edge where the clear tube wraps around the arches. The composition of the tube is given away even more directly by a brilliant specular reflection. This reflection is not associated with any kind of geologic feature (it seems to be simply hanging in space), effectively destroying the argument that "wind polished rocks" are responsible for the many brilliant features of the Martian surface.

Critics have in the past attempted to pass off similar arches as "sand dunes." To be sure, there are some superficial resemblances between these "arches" (and similar structures near the base of some pyramids at Cydonia) and real sand dunes. But on any sort of close examination, the "sand dunes" argument quickly falls apart.

This is an example real sand dunes on the surface of Mars. Note that they are irregularly spaced, vary in length, have diffuse edges and are the same color and texture as the surrounding terrain. They also are restricted mostly to flat, wide plains, and are not paralell to each other, even when the topography does not interfere with wind patterns.

By contrast, the arches are regularly spaced, nearly identical in length and breadth, and wrap around the surrounding features (a highly reflective glass tube!). They have completely different albedo properties than the surrounding terrain (indicating they are made from different material), and are restricted to the specific area of the glass tunnel. Note also that they are sharp edged and tubular, suggesting that they are individual structural features rather than drifting mounds of piled up sand.

To try and explain away such unique and obviously non-geologic objects as the products of mere wind erosion is laughable. What these object appear to be are the supports for some sort of underground tunnel or transportation system. 

To their marginal credit, scientists at MSSS have at least acknowledged the (geologically) inexplicable nature of these features. According to MSSS's Ken Edgett:

"Seeing Mars up close through the narrow angle camera has been a humbling experience. We often find surfaces for which there are no obvious analogs on Earth, like certain ridges that look like dunes. Our terrestrial geologic experience seems, at times, to fail us," Edgett said. "Perhaps it is because water is the dominant force of erosion on Earth, even in the driest desert regions. But on Mars that force of change may have been something else, like wind. The ridges seen in places like the Valles Marineris floors are strange. They aren't dunes because they occur too close together, their crests are too sharp, their slopes too symmetrical. They often appear to be a specific layer of material that has undergone erosion -- we just wish we knew what processes are involved that cause this kind of erosion."

The reality of course is that wind had nothing to do with the formation of these features. What Edgett and Malin seem to be dancing around is the obvious -- they are artificial.

We can only guess what other wonders await us as we continue to scan this new database. By all means, keep looking, and as always --

-- Stay Tuned!

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