NASA Looked At Mars And Was Shocked To Find The Face Of A Bear Staring Back

hero nasa mars recon orbiter
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of the Red Planet's surface that resembles that of a bear's face. The image was taken with the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Since arriving in Mars' orbit in 2006, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured more than a few interesting images of the planet's surface. In 2019, the spacecraft sent back an image that included what appeared to many as Star Trek's Enterprise logo. Another image taken last year had people seeing an alien footprint. One of the more recent images the orbiter has beamed back has people seeing a bear staring back at them.

bear face on mars

The image is actually that of a hill with a V-shaped collapse structure (the bear's nose), two craters (the eyes), and a circular fracture pattern (the head), according to a post on the University of Arizona website. It is suggested that the circular fracture pattern could be due to the "settling of a deposit over a buried impact crater," and the nose might be a "volcanic or mud vent and the deposit could be lava or mudflows."

The effect that causes us to see something in an image that is not there is called pareidolia. Pareidolia occurs when a person perceives a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

hirise instrument
HiRISE camera

HiRISE is one of six instruments onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The camera's high-resolution capability (imaging up to 30 centimeters per pixel) has taken photographs of Mars' surface that have led to hundreds of scientific papers being published with the data collected. The instrument can acquire images containing up to 28GB of data in as little as six seconds.

The powerful camera's pixel level resolution in images taken from an altitude of 186 miles (300 kilometers) is about 12 inches (30 centimeters) across (about basketball-size). The overall image size is a swath width of 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) with a programmable image length of up to 37 miles (60 kilometers).

Areas to be photographed by HiRISE are selected on the basis of data returned from the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, and regional surveys conducted by the Mars Reconnaissance's own instruments. Hopefully, we will all be privy to some more images that spark our imagination about what resides on the Red Planet.