Viral 360-degree panorama of ‘surface of Mars’ turns out to be deepfake hoax

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Millions of people watched in wonder as NASA's Perseverance rover broadcast a breathtaking 360-degree panorama video of the surface of Mars this week.

The only problem is the footage, which has been shared on social media by thousands, was a hoax.

Perseverance has in fact been transmitting video and audio from the Red Planet back to Earth ever since it landed on February 18, providing the first ever footage of its kind.

Astonishing official video from NASA showed the rover slowly drifting down to the surface of Mars, interspersed with footage of the space agency's engineers cheering for the successful mission.

But that apparently wasn't good enough for some internet-savvy tricksters who fooled thousands with a fake video.

Mere hours after Perseverance touched down last Thursday the footage surfaced online, appearing to show an eerie 360-degree view of Mars' rocky surface.

Accompanying the images was an audio track claiming to be the sound of Martian winds.

However nothing about the seemingly impressive video was genuine.

While the images were indeed of Mars, they had not been taken by Perseverance but by Curiosity, a NASA rover that has been on the planet since 2012 — the word "Curiosity" can even be spotted in the video.

It's also inaccurate to describe the content as video as it was in fact a "digital quilt of still images" stitched together to resemble footage, Inverse reports.

As for the soundtrack, experts have speculated it may be seismometer data from Mars that had been transposed into listenable audio.

But by then the fake video had already been shared thousands of times online, posted by everyone from prominent journalists to politicians to a popular Darth Vader parody account with more than 700,000 Twitter followers.

The original tweet with the video, accompanied by the caption "Mars, fascinating", now has more than 25.6 million views, 200,000 likes and almost 50,000 retweets.

  • Alien life could be hidden just inches under the surface of Mars, scientists say

The account behind the post, @YourAnonOne, claims to be part of the notorious hacking collective Anonymous but it remains unknown if the group are responsible for the doctored video.

Astronomers are concerned about how easily the fake video — which is still up on Twitter — was able to spread to millions of people online.

"It's this weird 'taking the wind out of your sails' feeling when you're really anticipating something amazing happening and a cheap ripoff is passed around as though it's the real thing," astrophysicist Katie Mack told Inverse.

"It's like a bootleg from inside a movie theatre of a film you really want to see. It sort of spoils the whole thing somehow."

While on Mars, Perseverance will search for signs of ancient microbial life and collect samples of rock for analysis on its return to Earth, which is scheduled for the early 2030s.

  • Nasa
  • Mars
  • Space

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