Mars landforms show a bear in adorable Nasa satellite image
The Red Planet’s rocky surface is pocked with craters, canyons, and volcanoes that make for an awe-inspiring sight. The unique topography can sometimes result in downright weird and even eerie landforms, like the human visage illusion created by a rock formation that was captured by the Viking 1 spacecraft in 1976.
Now, Nasa has spotted arguably the cutest bit of terrain on Mars: A piece of the planet that looks like the face of a bear. A new image captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows a teddy bear martian apparently grinning back at Nasa’s satellite.
The cuddly face is the result of three nearby unique landforms, according to the University of Arizona, which operate’s the MRO’s powerful camera (called the High Resolution Imaging Experiment, or HIRISE).
There’s a hill with a V-shaped collapse structure that represents the nose, two craters that look like button eyes, and a circular fracture pattern that appears as the head. According to scientists, the latter might be due to the settling of a deposit over a buried impact crater, while the nose is a volcanic or mud vent and the deposit could befrom lava or mudflows.
The photo was captured late last year as the MRO cruised roughly 156 miles (251 km) above Mars.
“What’s really going on here? It’s likely just a broken-up hill in the center of an ancient crater,” the University of Arizona said in a statement on its HIRISE blog.
It’s no wonder people are spotting bears and human faces on the surface of Mars. Space provides plenty of inspiration for pareidolia, the tendency to see familiar shapes or patterns in otherwise unrelated objects.
In 2009, people saw a hand-like structure in a Nasa image of a spinning neutron star surrounded by a cloud of energetic particles about 17,000 light-years from Earth. Back on Mars, the MRO took an image of a crater on Mars in 2011 that appeared to have a goofy grin.
Are all of these images just a case of humans projecting meaning on to the Red Planet’s rocks, peaks, and valleys or is Mars trying to tell us something?