The latest supposed discovery on Mars is a statue of a “Stunning Martian God.” It joins rats, crabs and faces many people say they have seen in pictures of the Martian surface.

Why do we see these things on the Martian surface (and in clouds, toast, etc.)? It’s a psychological phenomenon called pareidolia. Our mind sees a familiar pattern even though it doesn’t actually exist.

One example of this on Earth is the “grimacing human face” at Mercantour National Park in France.

grimacing face rock

Credit: Wikipedia

The perceived pattern often goes away when the angle of the photograph (or viewing) shifts. Many often see patterns of people in toast or animals in clouds. This is all pareidolia at work.

Let’s take a look at several instances of pareidolia on the red planet.


Mars Buddha statue

This is the one sweeping the internet right now. You can see the raw image from the rover here. Look in the darker rocks at the top right of the image to see it.


Mars rat

Usually, pareidolia centers around faces – but the next two change it up a bit. The above image is part of a panorama captured by NASA’s Curiosity rover on September 28, 2012. With plenty of time and an imagination just looking for something, UFO enthusiasts quickly found a rat hiding in the rocks on the left portion of the image.


Mars crab

Well, intermittent flowing water was just discovered on Mars. Looks like the crab has a viable habitat.


Mars face

This is one of the earliest cases of pareidolia on Mars. The Face on Mars was captured on July 25, 1976 by the Viking 1 Orbiter as it searched for a landing site for the Viking 2 Lander. Early transmission technology is partly responsible for us ‘seeing’ a face. The dots that cover this image are due to problems in transmission of image data from Mars to Earth in the early days of space exploration. The nostril we ‘see’ is actually a dot of missing data known as bit errors.


Mars lizard

Just another ‘animal’ posing for NASA’s Curiosity rover.

Floating spoon

Mars spoon

Ok, this is my favorite one. NASA’s Curiosity rover captured this awesome rock formation on August 30th. What we’re seeing is a rock likely shaped by wind.

Wind is the main driving force for rock erosion on Mars. It creates features ranging from vast dunes and planet-wide dust storms – to the small overhang we see with this ‘spoon.’

When I’m not playing Rocket League (best game ever), you can find me writing about all things games, space and more. You can reach me at alex@newsledge.com

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