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Mawrth Vallis Outflow Channel Looks Like a Collection of Crooked Martian Monsters

The human brain’s tendency of creating familiar visual patterns where there are none is an amazing thing, one that has made possible the creation of countless works of art down the ages. The tendency is so important that they even have a name for it – pareidolia.
Mawrth Vallis region of Mars 6 photos
Photo: NASA/JPL/UArizona
Mawrth Vallis region of MarsMawrth Vallis region of MarsMawrth Vallis region of MarsMawrth Vallis region of MarsMawrth Vallis region of Mars
It is pareidolia that has been the drive behind our coverage of Martian surface images over the past year, and it will probably continue to do that, given how, there’s no shortage of familiar things we can “see” in the unfamiliar environment of the neighboring planet.

Today’s trick on the mind comes from the same HiRISE camera in orbit around Mars, and from a place on the planet called Mawrth Vallis. That would be Mars Valley, translated from the weird blend of Welsh and Latin used to name this place in the Oxia Palus quadrangle.

The place is one of the oldest of its kind on Mars, and it’s viewed as an important region by scientists on account of its abundance of clay minerals. Ok, it’s not the clays themselves that are important, but the fact they come to be in the presence of water, the wonder substance we humans are looking for all over the Universe.

This particular image, released by the people who run HiRISE back in October, shows an area less than 1 km (0.62 miles) across, as seen from an altitude of 285 km (177 miles). Not only does it show some of the said clays, but also gives us a glimpse of how widespread and potent water once was on the planet, as it eroded the rocks there.

In doing so, it created incredible patterns to feed our pareidolia. Being a subjective thing, it may cause different people to see different things, but to me, the place seems like one large collection of alien monsters.

We get asymmetrical eyes and open mouths to the left side of the image, that combine to form crooked monster faces, some claws on the right, and canals that look like the leftover scars of some long-forgotten battle between Martian titans.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows Mawrth Vallis region of Mars.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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