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Pictures of Mars Show Hidden Figures

What valuable information might the pictures reveal?

By:  |  February 3, 2023  |    518 Words
GettyImages-90731727 Mars

(Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

Over the years, images on the surface of Mars have revealed themselves through various photos taken of the red planet. Faces of bears, enormous claw marks, and floating spoons name just a few of the illusions spotted on Earth’s celestial neighbor. Of course, most figures are optical illusions, but some provide insight for the scientists who study the planet.

Do You See What I See?

Organizations like NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and ESA (European Space Agency) receive information from the many robots and other technological equipment on the surface and orbiting around the planet. Just as a cloud in the sky can look like a goose or a heart, the photographs of Mars tend to take on alternate appearances. A human’s ability to decipher objects as something they are not is known as pareidolia. As the brain tries to make sense of what the eyes see, it often relates them to more general objects or shapes. For some, the ability to experience pareidolia is more profound than for others, though nearly every person will likely undergo this phenomenon at some point.

What Images Have Scientists Spotted on Mars?

Computer-generated views of Mars with it's primitive ocean.

(Photo by: Universal History Archive/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Several different images have been depicted on the outer layer of Mars. More recently, a team of astronomers from the University of Arizona noticed the shape of a bear’s face. It turns out the eyes of the bear are likely from asteroids that hit the planet’s surface. The nose was possibly formed by sloping, which is commonly caused by the repetitive movement of dust or water. The circle forming the head of the bear is from dust that has settled on unlevel surfaces.

In 1976, NASA’s Viking spacecraft captured an image of what appeared to be a face. In 2015, the Curiosity rover spotted a large, floating spoon hovering above the planet’s surface. The magical spoon was just a rock sculpted by the wind into the shape of a soup-eating utensil.

The latest release from ESA’s Mars Express Orbiter reveals what appears to be giant claw marks scratched onto the planet’s outer layer. The depressions are part of a fault system called Tantalus Fossae that runs alongside a primarily flat volcano called Alba Mons. What is remarkable about the grooves is that they are up to 1,148 feet deep and 6.2 miles wide!

What Can Astronomers Learn from the Images?

The images captured by the various equipment deployed in space offer insight into weather and wind patterns, asteroid activity, water movement, and climate. Astronomers use images to conduct experiments, log data, and detect trends. The information allows them to draw conclusions about the functionality of the mysterious red planet and whether sustainable life has ever existed there. For example, with the help of the rovers and orbiters, scientists learned that Mars has lots of iron oxide, which explains why it emits a red hue. The data compiled through technology is crucial to understanding more about Earth’s mysterious neighboring planet.

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