First of all, no. To answer the question in the headline, NASA’s Curiosity Rover did not just find a lizard sunning himself (or herself) on a rock on Mars.
It kind of looks like it did, though. And that’s why people — hopers and dreamers, but also lots of conspiracy theorists and general whackjobs — are getting excited.
A Japanese blogger was studying photos taken of the red planet by Curiosity and found something that looks like a small, green lizard-like creature in one of them. It was actually discovered back in March, but it only hit the English-language media (UFO hunter blogs, specifically) recently, and now the story is blowing up.
This is the photo in question. Decide for yourself what you see:
Here it is close up:
The image hasn’t been doctored in any way — other than being zoomed in a bunch. It’s based on this totally legitimate image that’s up on NASA’s site.
So … is it a lizard?
Nope. It’s just a rock.
It’s impossible for any life form similar to those on Earth to live on Mars. For starters, it’s too cold. There’s also the fact that the planet’s surface is literally toxic to organic life as we know it on Earth.
Sure, NASA has found evidence that suggests ancient microbes were once able to live on Mars, but that’s a lot different from a lizard. How would a lizard get on Mars? Are we to believe it independently evolved to look just like lizards on Earth, despite the completely different conditions on Mars? Or did it hitch a ride on the spacecraft that brought Curiosity over?
There are no lizards on Mars, folks — unless this guy is a lizard under his helmet.