The resemblence of a Martian rock to a coffin has got UFO enthusiasts excited, with some demanding that NASA stop studying Martian geology until Curiosity has checked the object out.
As a publicly funded agency, NASA releases all the images from its spacecraft and rovers. This is great both for science and public awareness, but it does make it easy for conspiracy theorists to go to town. The latest example is the image at the top, which is a close-up of this, more innocuous image which is visible with thousands of others at NASA's site.
NASA/JPL. The wide angle view with the "coffin" near the front. Personally, we are more intrigued by the half buried dragon behind.
If you can sit through the entire video you can wintess 13 minutes of “UFOlogist" Will Farrar explaining how he found the image, fiddling with the color scheme and getting excited by how some of the rocks in the area look like they were carved by alien civilizations. To his credit Farrar isn't actually suggesting that a hyperintelligent species crossed the vast gulf between the stars so they could leave a coffin on the surface of the solar system's fourth planet. The text below the video starts with, “Before you bother commenting and wasting your time. NOBODY HERE THINKS ITS A REAL COFFIN. It is SHAPED like a coffin or long rectangular box.”
Nevertheless, Farrar does seem to think the shape might be deliberately carved, asking, “What would it take to get NASA to turn the rover around and examine the contents of this box?” Plenty of others have jumped on the bandwagon. One site called it “Incomprehensible that NASA takes no action to examine the stone box.” Which is why science is not conducted by popular vote.
UFO fans just don't quit. Like Charlie Brown and the football, it doesn't seem to matter how many times they are proved wrong, they just keep coming back with new theories about how an odd shape or shadow is evidence of alien civilization. Last year it was the shadow on the moon that looked like a giant man but turned out to be something on the camera lens
Before that it was the face on Mars:
And somewhere in between we had a very lost squirrel.
It seems it is just too hard to accept that evolution has wired out brains for pareidolia,since seeing things that were not there was less dangerous to our ancestors than missing things that were.
There is one thing where we have to agree with Farrar though. At one point in the video he says, “You could sit here and do this allll day long.”
H/T to the wonderful Annalee Newitz at io9