A funny formation on the surface of Mars sure looks like a bear’s face staring back up at the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.
There are no bears on Mars, but there is a surface formation that looks a whole lot like one. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped a view of the red planet that should trigger your pareidolia instincts. Pareidolia is the human tendency to see familiar objects in random shapes. In this case, it’s totally a bear.
The University of Arizona runs the HiRise (High Resolution Imaging Experiment) camera on board MRO. It featured the bear-like formation as a HiRise image of the day on Wednesday. MRO captured the view in December.
The “face” is bigger than your average bear. A version of the image with a scale shows it stretches roughly 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) across.
Mars pits: Gaze into the abyss with these wild NASA images
See all photos
Since we’ve established this isn’t a real bear’s face or even bear art made by Mars’ nonexistent intelligent aliens, what is it? “There’s a hill with a V-shaped collapse structure (the nose), two craters (the eyes), and a circular fracture pattern (the head),” the HiRise team said. “The circular fracture pattern might be due to the settling of a deposit over a buried impact crater.” The nose might be formed by a volcanic or mud vent, so the material deposited over the crater could be lava or mud.
HiRise has a knack for finding imaginative faces on Mars. There’s the Happy Face Crater, Beaker from The Muppet Show and, oddly enough, Ed Asner. So spotting a bear’s mug is just another day on the red planet. Said the HiRise team, “Maybe just grin and bear it.”