NASA’s latest discovery on Mars may just be the cutest one yet. Last week, the operator of one of the space agency’s satellites shared a December photo of the red planet’s mysterious surface with a unique formation that resembles the face of a teddy bear.
The image was shared on Jan. 25 by the University of Arizona, which operates the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) that has been capturing images of the red planet since 2006. A scaled version of the photo, originally taken on Dec. 12, shows that the bear’s apparent head stretches roughly 2,000 meters across, nearly 1.25 miles.
So what caused the adorable tattoo-esque image on the planet’s surface? According to the University of Arizona, it was formed by a series of structural changes that happened to line up in just the right way.
The circle encompassing the bear’s head is actually a surface fracture that could have been caused by the “settling of a deposit over a buried impact crater,” the university said, as the eyes were formed by two craters. The most prominent feature – the bear’s snout – appears to be some kind of collapse structure, the school added, or perhaps some kind of volcanic vent with lava or mud flows.
But whatever it is, the university said that viewers should “maybe just grin and bear it.”
This isn’t the first time that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured unique images on the red planet’s surface. In 2019, it captured a snapshot of the “Star Trek” Starfleet logo that was created by wind, lava and dunes. A year prior, it also captured a spot that appeared strangely similar to the face of “The Muppet Show” character Beaker.
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