NASA has sparked an online frenzy with photos of a Martian rock formation eerily resembling a human femur bone, leading some to believe the Red Planet is home to extraterrestrials.
NASA’s bizarre photo features a pile of rocks partially buried in the rusty sands of Mars. Snapped by NASA’s Curiosity rover in August 2014, one rock in particular, sticks out like a sore thumb. An eroded rock in the upper half of the photo resembles a human thigh bone, a fact even acknowledged by NASA.
The US space agency said: “No bones about it! Seen by Mars rover Curiosity using its MastCam, this Mars rock may look like a femur thigh bone.
“Mission science team members think its shape is likely sculpted by erosion, either wind or water.”
The photo was recently unearthed by astrophysicist Antonion Paris who tweeted it to his more than 406,100 followers.
The tweet sparked a flurry of mixed responses with some opting to believe an alien origin.
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Professor Paris, Chief Scientist at the Center for Planetary Science, tweeted in jest: “Bones on #Mars? NASA: ‘Just rocks…”
In response, one person said: “I think the top-middle one is a bone.
Another person said: “Looks like a bunch of spacecraft debris with alien remains… hmmmmmmmm. Very interesting. “
A third person said: “After ‘Operation Paperclip’ I wouldn’t believe anything NASA says.”
A fourth person also tweeted: “That’s a thigh bone!!!”
However, as NASA pointed out, there is no evidence life has ever developed on the Red Planet.
And though Mars is believed to have once resembled a young Earth, its conditions may have been right only for simple, microbial life to evolve.
NASA said: “If life ever existed on Mars, scientists expect that it would be small simple life forms called microbes.
“Mars likely never had enough oxygen in its atmosphere and elsewhere to support more complex organisms. Thus, large fossils are not likely.”
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Psychologists can also explain why so many people could be led to believing the eroded rock is a bone – a peculiar trick known as pareidolia.
Pareidolia occurs when people see recognisable shapes and patterns where they do not exist.
For example, people who see animals in clouds or smiling faces in car bumpers, are all experiencing pareidolia.
NASA said: “Pareidolia is the psychological phenomenon where people see recognizable shapes in clouds, rock formations, or otherwise unrelated objects or data.
“There are many examples of this phenomenon on Earth and in space.”
According to astronomer Larry Sessions, pareidolia is a form of apophenia.
Famous cases of pareidolia include seeing a face on the Moon.
In an article for EarthSky.org, the astronomer wrote: “To a certain extent, the definition of pareidolia can be used to describe how the ancients connected the dots and came up with the patterns we know as constellations.
“It does not take a great deal of imagination to see a lion in Leo, a scorpion in Scorpius, or a mighty hunter in Orion.”