NASA Mars Lava Flow Image Looks Like Elephant

An image of Mars shows what looks like a giant elephant, but is actually an ancient lava flow.
An image of Mars shows what looks like a giant elephant, but is actually an ancient lava flow.

Scientists have released an image of a geologic feature on the Martian surface that resembles the profile of an elephant.

Clearly visible in the recently released, new high-resolution NASA image, are the imaginary pachyderm's eye, trunk and even a big floppy ear.

But what looks like an elephant in a cropped version of the image actually shows the edge of a vast ancient lava flow that astronomers say is located in Mars' youngest flood-lava province, an area of the planet called Elysium Planitia.

The U.S. space agency says the picture was taken with instruments aboard its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the Red Planet since 2006.

People often think they can "see" familiar random objects that are not really there - such as an elephant - in images of completely unrelated subject matter, such as the surface of Mars.  Scientists call this psychological phenomenon pareidolia.  Another example is the Man on the Moon, a geologic feature on the lunar surface that, when viewed from here on Earth, looks vaguely like a human face.

So far, there is no scientific evidence of life on Mars, but many experts believe that any past or present life discovered on the planet would likely be microbial.

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