Martian Pareidolia

With the Martian Bigfoot recently making headlines, Dr. Charles Lintott wrote an article for the BBC that traces the long history of Martian pareidolia.

Something about Mars makes us see things that aren't really there. It began with early astronomers believing that the surface of Mars was covered with canals. During the 1960s, some astronomers reported seeing signs of vegetation on the planet's surface.

The image below shows (on the top row) the Martian canals. The bottow row (from left to right) is the "face on Mars" taken by NASA's Viking spacecraft in the 1970s; the fossils that NASA researchers claimed to have found in a Martian meteorite in 1996; the recent Martian bigfoot; and the Martian smiley face (also recently photographed).

Extraterrestrial Life Pareidolia Science

Posted on Mon Feb 11, 2008


Didn't Dr. Manhattan make the martian smiley face back in 1985?

(Too obscure?)
Posted by Chris  on  Mon Feb 11, 2008  at  11:06 AM
I don't see a Martian smiley face... however, I see the Martian Pac-Man.
Posted by Rain-Oubliette  on  Mon Feb 11, 2008  at  03:51 PM
I agree with Rain-Oubliette, I see the Pac Man also. I seem to remember the Martian canal concept was due to a mis-translation of a word that could mean canals or chanels and was supposed to mean the latter.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Mon Feb 11, 2008  at  04:49 PM
The "face" is an old Jujube candy lost under the Martian couch so long ago, that it's now dust-bunny colored. The "fossil" is obviously a sandworm, on vacation from Dune (duh). "Bigfoot" is obviously a Martian version of the Copenhagen Little Mermaid (a comparison that I, I was first in the cybercosmos to relate some weeks ago -do your homework, look it up. I'm not your slave). The "happy face" looks more like something on Uranus. You're welcome
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Mon Feb 11, 2008  at  05:25 PM

Yes, Mars has canals,
but do the gondoliers sing
'O Sole Mio?
Posted by Big Gary  on  Mon Feb 11, 2008  at  06:28 PM
Uh, Big Gary, I thought the phrase was "O solo mio." not "O sole mio?" But I don't speak Italian and am going on memories of hearing the phrase in movies. I also thought is was a statement, not a question.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Mon Feb 11, 2008  at  08:03 PM
I am so happy I'm not the only one who thinks "Smiley face? What smiley face?"
Posted by Kathleen  on  Tue Feb 12, 2008  at  02:33 PM
..."I thought the phrase was "O solo mio." "

I looked this up. It's "'O Sole Mio," which in Neopolitan dialect means "My Sun." This is a line in the refrain of the song. The song was long associated with Enrico Caruso, but has been done by almost everybody.
The line "'O sole mio," is, of course, neither a question nor a statement, it's just an article, a noun, and a possessive pronoun, but in the song it occurs as parts of various sentences. The song is rather nostalgic and has to do with the singer's love of the sun and sunshine, among other things.
The question is in my Haiku; " the gondoliers sing ...", not in the song title.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Tue Feb 12, 2008  at  02:39 PM
Wasn't Enrico Caruso that Latino guy on NYPD Azul or something? And I thought it was "A-ssole a you-o"... that's what my brother said, anyway
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Tue Feb 12, 2008  at  09:46 PM
The 'Galle' crater on Mars is also called the 'Smiley Face' because of earlier photos like this one:

Like the Cydonia Face (and most other examples of pareidolia), the effect disappears upon close inspection.
Posted by David B.  on  Wed Feb 13, 2008  at  07:56 AM
Cracks me up how people claim to see non-existent formations on the planetary surfaces... Most of these photos are taken at such a distance (in most cases, from thousands of miles away)that NO clarity is offered in the actual photo in the first place. As technology developes, these "manufactured" items disappear (the Mars face, for example). MOST PEOPLE have to be told what it is they're looking at in the first place, to "see" what others do when viewing the same image. If you stare at ANY surface long enough, your mind can create all sorts of things in the original items image...

Or, as I'm fond of saying, "An image of a rusty water-tower appeared in my Jesus painting! I wonder if it's worth anything..."
Posted by Christopher  on  Wed Feb 13, 2008  at  09:05 AM
Shame about the 'fossils' though:( I recall being very excited about those...
Posted by outeast  on  Tue Feb 19, 2008  at  04:05 AM
There is a really cool looking picture of Mars moon Phobos at
Posted by Jamie  on  Sat Apr 12, 2008  at  11:35 AM
Unlike the Cydonia face, the smiley face is there- even if you take a picture of it from one of the very few angles from which it isn't as apparent as it is from most. Or at least as apparent as it is from other angles; it still shows up even in the picture you've used, just not as clearly.

I concede that only from this angle does it seem to have hair. That, I accept as an illusion.

Does the Smiley Face mean anything? No. But it's amusing, and attempts to debunk it reveal more about the absence of humility and a sense of either humor or wonder in the would-be debunker than about the Smiley Face.
Posted by Bob Waters  on  Sat Dec 05, 2009  at  02:28 AM
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