10 Strange Examples of Space Pareidolia

10 Strange Examples of Space Pareidolia

Is it an alien? Or an ancient structure? No, it’s just a rock.

Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon where the mind perceives a pattern where there is none. In practical terms, this often refers to our tendency of seeing objects (most commonly faces) in random shapes and things. There is even an interesting subgroup of space pareidolia. Show people a grainy image of some rocks from Mars, let them stare long enough and one of them will eventually see some kind of alien rat or ancient pyramid or something. It’s never an alien rat, though. It’s always just a weirdly-shaped rock.

1. The Face on Mars

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

I know what I just said but, come on. That Martian mound really, really looks like a face. Actually, poor quality imagery and some oddly-placed shadows are to blame here. Modern hi-def images show that the mound looks nothing like a face.

2. Martian Floating Spoon

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

We could probably do the whole list just with things from Mars. People really want there to be life on the red planet, to the point where they abandon all common sense in favor of vaguely-strange phenomenon. Like this floating spoon, for example. A spoon which is actually an oddly-shaped rock that can stand in that position due to the low gravity on Mars.

3. Martian Pyramid

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

See, I told you there’s going to be a pyramid eventually. As we’ve learned with the Martian face, shadows can play tricks on us and make us think an object has a certain shape it doesn’t really have. That doesn’t stop alien hunters from proclaiming the pyramid is actually the tip of a much larger pyramid buried underground.

4. Martian Smiley Face

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

Ok, this one’s pretty cool. Officially, it is known as the Galle Crater (not to be confused with the Gale Crater). But thanks to a few strategically-placed mountain ranges, it really looks like a giant smiley face.

5. Martian Brain

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

Last one on Mars. Although at first glance this looks like a standard crater, upon closer inspection the crater floor looks like a giant brain. NASA usually doesn’t encourage alien hunters, but this time they had a bit of fun and worked out that the 0.6-mile wide brain is just about the right size to fit inside the Face of Mars.

6. Mimas Death Star

Moon mimas

We’ve already talked about Mimas in-depth so click here if you want to learn about the weird moons in our galaxy. Many people think that Saturn’s moon Mimas looks like the Death Star from Star Wars and, seen as a temperature map, even Pac-Man.

7. Man in the Moon

Photo: D. Helber

Photo: D. Helber

We’ve been staring at the Moon for thousands of years. Of course we saw a face eventually. In fact, we’ve seen a lot of stuff depending on the time period and culture. Sometimes it’s the face of a man, sometimes the face of a woman. Other times it’s the whole body of a witch carrying firewood and, occasionally, it’s even a giant rabbit.

8. Venus Tick

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

Getting an image of Venus’ surface is tricky thanks to the planet’s dense atmosphere but we finally managed it when the Magellan space probe used radar to map out most of the planet. One odd thing we discovered is volcanoes shaped unlike anything here on Earth that came to be known as “ticks”.

9. Mercury’s Mickey Mouse

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

Ok, so Mickey Mouse’s head is not the most difficult shape to recreate. It’s just three circles together. But, still, this looks pretty cool.

10. Mercury’s Han Solo

Mercury Han Solo featured

Photo: NASA

Just in case you weren’t convinced Mercury is a Disney fan, here is Han Solo frozen in carbonite.