On December 12, from 156 miles above the surface of Mars, the HiRise camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted a peculiar sight: the face of a bear, peering up from the crust of the Red Planet.
Okay, it’s just a natural rock formation, but it bears a strong resemblance to an ursine face. A circular fracture outline’s the head, while two small twin craters are the eyes.
According to a University of Arizona release, the bear’s snout and maw are composed of a V-shaped collapse structure, and the outline of its face may be due to the settling of sediment into a subterranean impact crater. The team suggested the collapse structure may be a volcanic or mud vent.
This is hardly the first time something on Mars has looked like strangely familiar. (This was always bound to happen, as our brains love to see faces.) Back in 1976, the Viking 1 spacecraft spotted an eerie rock formation that looked like a human face about 2 miles long, in a region of Mars called Cydonia. Images of the same structure in 2001 from the Mars Global Surveyor revealed that the human face was more a production of Viking 1’s relatively poor resolution.
Last year, the internet was agog over a ‘doorway’ on Mars—never mind that the rock formation that resembled a door was only about a foot tall. We’ve also spotted apparent spoons, lights, blueberries, bones, and a woman. All just tricks of rocks, light, and perspective.
Since Mars is under constant surveillance—on the surface and from above—it’s no surprise that these optical illusions periodically emerge from the barren, rocky surface.