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Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, has a liquid metal core.

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M-I-C-K-E-Y Mouse

M-I-C-K-E-Y Mouse

Credit: Viking 1, NASA
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Martian_face_viking.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The “Face on Mars” is an example of the phenomenon of seeing patterns where there aren’t any. There really isn’t an image of a face on Mars.

Amazing But True!

  • Pareidolia is the phenomenon of seeing patterns in random data.
  • The planets are full of opportunities for pareidolia.
  • Craters present opportunities for seeing patterns. 
  • Credit: NASA
    Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Happy-face1.jpg
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    "The Smiling Crater" -NASA Mars Global Surveyor, 1999 [Figure2]

  • Mercury is covered with craters. Besides Mickey Mouse, Han Solo has also been seen on Mercury.

Show What You Know

With the links below, learn more about pareidolia. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Is there something about the night sky that is an example of pareidolia? What is it? Give a few examples of these patterns.
  2. What makes up the Mickey Mouse head and ears that just about everyone with a close up image can see on Mercury?
  3. How did planetary scientists see the Mickey Mouse on Mercury?
  4. What happened to the “Face on Mars?” Is it still there?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Viking 1, NASA; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Martian_face_viking.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: NASA; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Happy-face1.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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