- The new NASA image is the latest example of a phenomenon known as pareidolia.
- Where the brain wants to make sense of what the eyes see, it creates something unreal
Looking at this new photo taken by NASA’s Perseverance rover, you’d be forgiven for thinking that something fishy is going on on the Red Planet.
That’s because the car-sized robot took an image of two distinct rocks resembling a shark’s fin and a crab’s claw.
The US space agency shared this latest discovery on X (formerly known as Twitter), prompting a flurry of responses from space fans who joked that the crab-like rock was the remains of the ” Almighty Great Cosmic Crab”.
Others said the ‘claw’ looked more like a coffee bean or the head of a turtle ‘digging a hole for its eggs’, while some joked that the shark fin might actually be the “back plates” of a stegosaurus.
The photos, taken last month, are the latest example of a phenomenon known as pareidolia – in which the human brain wants to make sense of what the eyes see and thus creates meaning that is not real.
READ MORE: Perseverance rover spots strange DONUT-shaped rock on Mars
Notably with Mars is where this happened in 1976, when NASA’s Viking 1 spacecraft captured an image of what looked like a face etched into the Red Planet’s surface.
The US space agency made it clear when releasing the photo that it was an illusion caused by shadows, but that hasn’t stopped some from claiming the face was the work of some species. extraterrestrial.
It wasn’t until twenty years later that NASA tried to put an end to this feverish speculation.
In 1998, the agency’s Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) captured images of what is called the “face on Mars” that was 10 times sharper than Viking 1, revealing it to be a much more natural looking rocky outcrop.
But not everyone was convinced.
Some conspiracy theorists clung to the idea that the images had been obscured by mist, but NASA proved once and for all in 2001 that it was a common geological feature known as a butte , or mesa, which also exists on Earth.
‘We photographed the face as soon as we could get a good picture,” said Jim Garvin, chief scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.
“It especially reminds me of Middle Butte on the Snake River Plain in Idaho.
“It’s a lava dome that takes the form of an isolated mesa at about the same height as the Face of Mars.”
This is, however, just one example of the strange rocks that have been spotted on Mars.
This year alone, the US space agency shared photos of a donut-shaped rock and a bone-like stone, while Perseverance’s Mars rover Curiosity photographed a dark feature in a wall rock that some claimed to be a “gateway”.
This idea was quickly dismissed by NASA, when the US space agency revealed that it measured only a few centimeters in width and height, while geologists said it was probably caused by several fractures in a straight line. in the coinciding rock face.
Perseverance was launched on Mars in 2020 to search for signs of ancient life on the red planet.
He is currently exploring an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater, which was once filled with a 1,600-foot-deep lake.
Scientists believe the region harbored microbial life around 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago. The rover was therefore tasked with examining soil samples to search for evidence of extraterrestrial existence.
At work: NASA’s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter search for life on the Red Planet
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission has been launched to search for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on Earth during the early years of the system’s evolution solar.
Named Perseverance, the main car-sized rover is exploring an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater, which was once filled with a 1,600-foot-deep lake.
The area is believed to have harbored microbial life around 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago and the rover will examine soil samples to look for evidence of this life.
The $2.5bn (£1.95bn) Mars 2020 spacecraft launched on July 30 with the rover and helicopter inside – and landed successfully on February 18, 2021.
Perseverance has landed inside the crater and will slowly collect samples which will eventually be returned to Earth for further analysis.
A second mission will fly to the planet and return the samples, possibly by the end of the 2020s, in partnership with the European Space Agency.
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