NASA snapped a photo of Mars that is now making the rounds on the Internet. The reason? Some people see a creature.
Just a rock formation, eh? Don’t see anything? Now let’s zoom in.
A crustacean creature or nothing at all?
Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer and Director of the Center for SETI Research, told the Huffington Post over email that he receives pictures like this at least once a week.
“Those that send them to me are generally quite excited, as they claim that these frequently resemble SOMETHING you wouldn’t expect to find on the rusty, dusty surface of the Red Planet,” he said. “It’s usually some sort of animal, but occasionally even weirder objects such as automobile parts. Maybe they think there are cars on Mars.”
Shostak said that “pareidolia” is at work whenever people make these claims. or the brain’s ability to make shapes out of random objects — like seeing animals in clouds.
Pareidolia is defined as “the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features.”
“Recognizing a crab in a landscape filled with wind-weathered rocks is no more surprising — nor more significant — than seeing a winking face in a semi-colon followed by a parenthesis,” Shostak concluded.