Viking Mars Lander Photo
Color-Altering Revealed
From Kim Burrafato
From S-P & M-M Sirag


Comment on Viking Mars Lander Photo Color-Altering Revealed

From: "Barry Arneson"

Just for fun I took the best Viking 2 color image I could find from several web sites and did a quick RGB correction using the US Flag as my color reference. I think most people know what the old glory looks like. It is obvious in many pictures as in this one that there is something seriously wrong with old glory. Very saturated red making the blue in the flag look purple and the red stripes bloom.

Image 2 is the result of adjusting the RGB levels to get old glory to look normal. And the result was amazing. Red sand, blue sky and some masive green spots on some of the rocks. If you zoom in on the big rock just above the center of the flag and just at edge of the housing there is a large green spot several pixels wide.

This is not scientific I just did it for my own curiosity.


Red, White and Blue vs. Puce, White and Purple? It appears Barry has fully demonstrated
that the magenta saturated images from NASA were considerably distorted.
From Alan J. Adams
There is a way to find out what the appropriate set of colors for those photos are, and although I am not skilled enough with the software to do it myself, I may know someone who is.. Are there any known photos of the lander in a terrestrial environment. press pictures or the like that show the lander in a known environment so that the colors in the lander could be derived?
Once one has that, they could take the known colors and apply them to the gamma equalization of the image, this would make the lander white, if the sky is greatly different, I.E. still red, then it has been altered the sky should be about the same color as the lander since the lander is white, and as you would see the lander would take on a blue tint from the sky. you would use flags, staffs etc. on the lander as other color "landmarks" to verify this information. It is a fairly easy process for someone with the appropriate graphics software. If one were to measure the amount of any one color from the black in the image it is also a reference.
This is a fairly easy process for someone with these skills. That will give us a good Idea of who is right and who is keeping us in the dark red.
Original Article
I don't know if you and Kim know about this controversy over the Martian red-sky vs. blue-sky.
Note that Ron Levin is a physicist at MIT. His father Gil Levin was the Principal Investigator on the Viking labeled release experiment to test for life.
Vincent Di Pietro's remarks worth paying attention to. Di Pietro (and Gregory Molinaar) were the first ones to find the two (different) "face on Mars" pictures in the NASA files. _____
From G. G. Ford < Subject: Viking Mars Lander Color finagling revealed Date: Tue, Apr 25, 2000
Quotd from:
[Start Quote]
From: Date: Sun, 4 Oct 1998 To:
Below is a message I sent to SPSR members. I got an interesting response from Vince DiPietro, which I will send separately to the list.
I recently listened to a RealAudio interview from the Laura Lee Show archive that was done last July. The guests were Dr. Gil Levin (PI for the Labeled Release experiment on the Viking landers) and his son, Ron, who is a physicist at MIT. I'm sure you're all familiar with Dr. Gil Levin's story, but his son described something that I had never heard before:
Ron said that he was a 20-year old grad student and was at JPL when the first color images came in from the lander. He said those original images showed a blue sky and rocks with greenish patches on them, and that the Viking imaging team quickly adjusted the images so that the sky and the rocks all had the reddish color we're familiar with. Levin made it clear that there was no scientific justification for these "adjustments", and he speculated that the color
was changed because the planetary scientists took a dim view of the greenish patches on the rocks, which suggested some primitive form of plant life might be growing right on the surface.
This story sounded like one of those tall tales, except for the person who was telling it. Ron Levin is a physicist at MIT who co-authored his father's recent paper on the LR experiment and liquid water on Mars. He's not one of those anomymous "sources" that are responsible for most of the wild stories, so I took his allegations seriously enough to find out more about the original Viking images.
The first images released to the media on the day of the Viking 1 landing did, in fact, show a blue sky, but the later ones showed a red sky. There are several "authoritative" explanations of what happened, one involving color filters that were passing "out of band" light, making the images come out too blue. (Malin says this on one of his web pages). This doesn't sound plausible to me, since I would think they certainly would have noticed any major problem with the filters in the exhaustive preflight testing of the hardware.
Ron Levin also said something else that surprised me: that the Hubble Space Telescope had taken images of Mars that showed a blue sky. I checked the HST web site,
Sure enough, every last one of the higher-resolution images of Mars shows a bluish band around the limb of the planet that looks very much like a blue sky. Also, the Hubble scientists issued periodic weather reports on Mars up to the Pathfinder landing, and these reports explicitly predicted that Pathfinder should see a blue sky.
Hubble's last "weather report" before the Pathfinder landing states:
"If dust diffuses to the landing site, the sky could turn out to be pink like that seen by Viking," says Philip James of the University of Toledo. Otherwise, Pathfinder will likely show blue sky with bright clouds." (URL
There was no indication that any dust storms were active in the area. Surface measurements made by the spacecraft reported only light winds for many days after the landing. Yet all the images that came back from Pathfinder showed the same red sky as Viking had.
I saw one NASA web page that claimed this confirmed that the colors shown by Viking were correct (a subject they seem rather sensitive about). If Ron Levin is correct, then there are "problems" with the Pathfinder images as well as Viking. The Hubble press releases certainly suggest that there is a real difference of opinion that goes well beyond Levin.
I'm not totally convinced that the blue band around the limb shown in the Hubble images is really sky, because the band is about 2 pixels deep, the best of which had a resolution of 13 miles. If the blue band is atmosphere, then it would mean that it is thick enough up to altitudes above 13 miles to back- scatter enough light for the Hubble camera to detect it.
I measured some photographs taken by space shuttle astronauts of the Earth's limb, and the atmospheric haze visible in the photos is only 22 miles deep at most. Earth's atmosphere is 100 times more dense than Mars' at ground level, and the altitude where the Earth's atmospheric haze disappears (22 miles) is about the point where the density of the atmosphere drops to that of Mars at its greatest density at ground level. Mars does have about 1/3 the albedo of Earth, so maybe the lower brightness of the martian surface doesn't swamp the light from Mar's tenuous atmospheric haze. If this blue band is NOT sky, I can't think of anything else it could be other than some kind of chromatic aberration in the camera. So this might not be the reason that the Hubble scientists concluded that the sky should be blue, but they definitely had SOME reason to think that, in contradiction to JPL.
One final thing that is worth a comment: I also looked at one of the few wide- angle color photographs Malin has released that shows the limb of the planet. I really would think it should show something, but there is not the slightest hint that Mars has any atmopshere at all in this in this image, blue OR red. The transition from the red surface to the blackness of space is as abrupt as in images of the Moon.
This is the message I got in response from Vince DiPietro, which he gave me permission to distribute. Vince goes quite a bit farther with his comments than just the Viking lander.
During September, 1996, I was in communication with John Green, an engineering technician at the Univ. of Kentucky. John sent away for the first pictures of the lander (PIC ID 77/10/11/182339) SKL/L2964BX from JPL. JPL sent the uncorrected version and the "PAINT YOUR WAGON RED" version. John also sent for the images data fields on diskette. John claims that the three color guns were set at nominal voltages, somewhere about mid-range on the uncorrected version. The "painted" version has the red gun of the spacecraft turned all the way up, and the explanation given by JPL was lame. I have been talking about this at all of my lectures for
the past two years, but of course the gospel according to Saint JPL has been that the red version was correct. I say that JPL is putting out garbage. THIS IS NOT SCIENCE! What is needed here is a full blown investigation of JPL MARS activities for the past twenty-two years by someone like Ken Starr. A letter from SPSR to the Senate sub-committee on Space should be considered at this time. I still maintain that the reason that JPL has done this is for fear of losing their funding to Manned-Flight to Mars. All of the life indicators from Mars have been either ignored or put down by JPL. In no particular order these are:
1. The Face and all anomalies in Cydonia
2. The Organic Fossils in meteorites in two centuries Aug.7,1996 ALH84001 meteorite July 20,1989 Dr. Ian Wright-EETA79001 meteorite 1966 Dr. Bart Nagy-Revelstoke, Orgueil, Ivuna meteorites 1881 Dr. Hahn - Knyahinya meteorite
3. Dec.,1980 The Water Geyser in Solis Lacus- Dr. Leonard Martin
4. Since 1976 - Dr. Gil Levin - Labeled Release Experiment
5. The very, very white rock found at Pathfinder site named "Casper" which might have been calcium carbonate or a bone fragment. JPL skirted all around this rock, and never gave us an analysis.
I believe that we are dealing with thugs, like the guy who wanted to fist-fight me in Boston at the AGU conference in May of this year. How long will we allow JPL to get away with this witchcraft?

From Michael Portaro
Hello Jeff,
I had to comment on the story "Viking Mars Lander Photo Color-Altering Revealed".
Back in 1976 I was a wide-eyed nine year old who was fascinated with the space program. I watched every bit of space coverage that was on TV going back as far as I can remember. I watched at least 3 or 4 of the Apollo missions, Apollo-Soyuz in 1975. I think I even watched the launch of either Viking or Voyager.
The day that Viking landed on Mars in 1976 I watched live as the pictures from Mars were transmitted all over the world, and Jeff, as sure as a 9 year olds' recollection 24 years later can possibly be, that sky WAS BLUE!
I even remember doing a crayon drawing of what I saw and I certaintly used blue for the sky. I remember that when I saw the pictures later in life, it didn't look like I'd remembered it, but I didn't think much of it, chalking it up to a 9 year olds imagination. Unfortunately I don't remember seeing any greenish patches on the rocks - I was probably taken more by the sky and how it resembled Earth.
Take care Michael Portaro Clarkston MI
From Kevin Daly
I recall well myself seeing the first Viking images in 1976, complete with blue sky (this was a big event for us, because we'd had to listen to the first moon landing on the radio since New Zealand didn't have a satellite receiving station in 1969).
I was 15 at the time, and I also remember quite clearly when the corrected versions were released shortly afterwards. As well as I can remember the explanation was along the lines that the blue coloration had been the result of the imaging software applying terrestrial default values (since the images were received in greyscale originally). To be honest, this sounded like a perfectly reasonable explanation at the time and still does.
Whatever conspiracies may or may not be active with regard to Mars, I don't see any reason to believe that the colour of its sky is part of one of them.
Actually, I remember that after getting over my initial disappointment at the loss of the impressive and surprising blue sky, the first sight of a truly *alien* sky was an experience that helped make the universe a more interesting place for me.
Kevin Daly
Dublin, Ireland
From Ira Oehler
While reading that story in your headlines, one other obvious possibility came to mind: perhaps the earth-like blue sky and earth-like mossy rocks indicate the photos were actually taken on earth and not Mars at all. I wonder how the guys (levin, Dipeitro, etc) in the article could be so sure that they were really looking at photographs/video footage of Mars and not remote areas of the Earth (Antarctica for instance)?

Hmmmm Jeff,
Me thinks someone else is TRYING to stir up ANOTHER controversy using you and your site as a vehicle to do it.
I have a book here, published in 1981,82 called "The New Solar System", authored by J. Kelley Beatty, Brian O'Leary and Andrew Chaikin, with intro by Carl Sagan. This book shows LOTS of photos taken by Voyager and Viking 2 Lander etc... Some are in colour but most are black and white. Anyhow I managed to find THREE pictures taken by those craft back in the 1970s that ARE in colour AND show the sky (because the other colour pictures seem to be pointed down at the surface and you don't see the sky) and the sky is ORANGY PINK in 2 of the 3 pictures. The other one remaining picture shows a whitish sky (kind of like what it looks like here on a hazy or overcast day). That picture though does not only show green on the rocks, which looks if not like vegetation but at least like fungus or mold, but ALSO frost patches on the ground! The other two pictures are pretty much representative of the pictures we've all become familiar with, with the latests Mars Lander probe. So I don't think JPL "added or changed" the colour to the pictures. I'm sorry but I'm not buying into that one.


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