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NASA Photo Captures an 'Elephant' on Mars


Buster's Uncle:

--- Quote ---NASA Photo Captures an 'Elephant' on Mars

By Saul Relative | Yahoo! Contributor Network – 14 hrs ago.. .

It is an amazing sight -- an image of a large elephant's "head" or "face" stretching across the surface of Mars. Although there has yet to be proof positive that life exists on Mars -- and even then, if not solely subterranean, it most likely will be in the form of micro-organisms -- an image of a living thing is exactly what it looks like NASA picked up when photographing the Elysium Planitia sector of the red planet. But resembling a living organism is a far cry from being alive.
The elephant in the photo is actually the remnants of a large lava flow that occurred sometime within the last 100 million years. The planet is considered to be primarily dormant at present.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Rover took the photo in a recent fly-by.

Alfred McElwen of HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) at the University of Arizona noted that although most lava floods were at one time thought to become emplaced fairly rapidly, it is now known that the floods usually take decades to emplace. And that is on planet Earth. It is believed that a similar process takes place on Mars.

And how is it that humans can easily espy an elephant's "face" on the surface of Mars? It is the visual processing phenomenon known as pareidolia -- where the human brain generates familiar objects out of random shapes and objects. It is the same phenomenon experienced when people see things in cloud-shapes or in astrological constellations.

Mars has been no stranger to strange sights and the occasional case of pareidolia over the years. In fact, it was once thought that Mars, due to its coloration, was criss-crossed with canals. The planet, however, is cold and arid, although ice deposits have been detected in vast amounts below the surface (Mars' atmosphere turns water ice to water vapor rather quickly when it is exposed).

One of the stranger geological shapes on the red planet is the now famous "Face On Mars," a giant massif formation that was first sighted in 1976 by NASA's Viking Orbiter. A fly-by conducted by the European Space Agency's Mars Express in 2006 caught high-resolution photos of the famous "face," somewhat putting to rest the idea that it might have been an artifact left behind by former intelligent Martian residents or some extra-solar visitor.

Then there is the translucent worm, a mile-long geological anomaly that resembles a see-through striated tube caught in a crevasse. That image was captured by the Mars Global Surveyor and is also, like the "Face on Mars" a source of speculation and controversy.

Another image is the "Happy Face on Mars," which is simply some outcroppings found within the Galle crater rim. Unlike the worm-like formation and the Face on Mars, the Happy Face is not controversial, its components easily explained.

Although it is too soon to tell, the Elephant Face on Mars will likely join the Happy Face in being not-so-controversial -- intriguingly unique but unlikely to stir the hopes of those searching for signs of sentient life elsewhere in the universe.

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