Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pareidolia as “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern.” Dictionaries fail to mention, though, that this is the reason why we see many ordinary objects and images as way more fun than they are.
NASA’s Reconnaissance Orbiter recently snapped a photo of the Martian surface that looks like a face of a teddy bear. At least that’s how we humans see it, but what is it exactly?
The University of Arizona (UA) shared the image on 25 January, noting that it was taken on 12 December 2022 at an altitude of 251 km. They posted some details on High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera blog, describing what it is that we see in this “teddy bear” photo:
“There’s a hill with a V-shaped collapse structure (the nose), two craters (the eyes), and a circular fracture pattern (the head). The circular fracture pattern might be due to settling a deposit over a buried impact crater. Maybe the nose is a volcanic or mud vent and the deposit could be lava or mud flows?”
Of course, the reasonable adult part of us knows that this is just a bunch of rocks, craters, and dust in a random shape. But pareidolia makes us see a teddy bear, just as it sees a smiling face in this image of the sun. I like to believe that it’s also a child in us that lets us see all sorts of shapes in random patterns, and in my opinion, that’s what makes life a little more fun.
[via Space.com; image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona]