An Elephant on Mars? At Least According to This NASA Photo

  • Share
  • Read Later
NASA / JPL / University of Arizona

NASA managed to snag this unique picture of an elephant-shaped lava flow on Mars in the Elysium Planitia sector of the planet. Located on a Martian plain known for displaying some of the planet’s youngest lava flows, this flow may have occurred within the past 100 million years – a relatively short time in the planet’s history. The Red Planet is largely believed to be relatively inactive at present day.

University of Arizona planetary geologist Alfred McEwen told MSNBC:

“Most lava floods on Earth are emplaced over years to decades, and this is probably true for much of the lava on Mars as well. An elephant can walk away from the slowly advancing flow front. However, there is also evidence for much more rapidly flowing lava on Mars, a true flood of lava. In this instance, maybe this elephant couldn’t run away fast enough.”

As for the elephant? It’s a classic case of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon where human brains see familiar objects in random shapes. It is also the same reason why people often see bunnies and animals in the clouds. And Mars often gets wacky images associated with it — think little green men.

PHOTOS: America’s Mercury Astronauts

Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest