Spacecraft captures image of strange bear-like face smiling on Mars

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Scientists have captured what looks like a bear grinning directly at the camera as they conducted research on Mars. Researchers from the University of Arizona found the site while studying the red planet using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The scientists shared the image with features of the Martian surface that appear to resemble a massive teddy bear, with two beady eyes, a button nose and a snout that looks like its grinning at NASA’s camera. The university added that this image was captured on December 12 last year, as the spacecraft hovered approximately 156 miles (251 kilometers) above the surface.

In a blog post, the researchers wrote: “There’s a hill with a V-shaped collapse structure (the nose), two craters (the eyes), and a circular fracture pattern (the head).

“The circular fracture pattern might be due to the settling of a deposit over a buried impact crater. Maybe the nose is a volcanic or mud vent and the deposit could be lava or mud flows?”

The reason why most of us see a bear’s face grinning back at us from a random collection of dusty rocks and mountains is because of a psychological phenomenon known as pareidolia.

This refers to the tendency for humans to perceive or impose a meaningful interpretation on a visual stimulus, which results in people noticing patterns or meanings where this is none.

The image led to many social media users cracking jokes, with one Twitter user TeahCartel writing: “Congrat’s bear for getting to Mars before any of us. Move over man in the moon.”


Author Michael Shermer pointed out: “You’ve heard of the face on Mars? NASA discovered the bear on Mars. Lovely example of patternicity, or the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise.”

Infinate space is filled with examples of pareidolia, with some astronomers comparing a brightly coloured green nebula, which is giant cloud of dust and gas in space, to the famous lizard monster Godzilla.

Caltech astronomer Robert Hurt said in a statement: “I wasn’t looking for monsters. I just happened to glance at a region of sky that I’ve browsed many times before, but I’d never zoomed in on.

“Sometimes if you just crop an area differently, it brings out something that you didn’t see before. It was the eyes and mouth that roared ‘Godzilla’ to me.”

The Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter is a NASA spacecraft which is designed to study the geology and climate of the Red Planet. Part of its function is to provide reconnaissance of future landing sites and to relay data from surface missions back to Earth.

Some of the MRO’s most notable missions include searching for ice and water on Mars, finding a landing spot for the Mars Curiosity rover, and capturing an image of the comet Siding Spring which flew close by in 2014.

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Last month, NASA scientists noted that they captured a image of the northern plains of Arabia Terra which shows craters that contain curious deposits with mysterious shapes and distribution.

The deposits are found only in craters larger than 600 meters in diameter and are absent from craters measuring 450 meters and less. The deposits were also only present in the south sides of the craters but not in the north.

In a blogpost, they wrote: “The deposits have horizontal laminations that could be layers or terraces. The deposits also have radial striations formed by small bright ridges.

“We suspect that these features formed by sublimation of ice-rich material. The terraces might represent different epochs of sublimation. Perhaps the larger craters penetrated to a water table between 45 and 60 meters below the surface and were flooded after formation.”

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