Two eyes, a nose and an ajar mouth: it really seems to see the muzzle of a bear, in the bizarre geological formation taken on the surface of Mars by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) probe.
The image was published by the University of Arizona (responsible for the HiRISE tool that made the shot) and immediately conquered social media by leveraging pareidolia, or the mental process that leads us to recognize familiar faces and shapes in landscapes or inanimate objects.
The giant bear's muzzle has a diameter of almost two kilometers and was photographed last December 12 by the Mro spacecraft as it flew over the Red Planet from a height of about 251 kilometers.
The image aroused the curiosity of astronomers at the University of Arizona, who competed to try to understand what could have drawn such a shape on the planet's surface.
The most likely hypothesis is that it is a collapsed hill in the center of a large crater.
"There is a hill with a V-shaped collapse structure (the nose), two craters (the eyes), and a circular fracture pattern (the head)," says HiRISE chief scientist Alfred McEwen.
"The circular pattern of fracture could be due to the settling of a deposit on a buried impact crater. Perhaps the nose is a volcanic or mud vent and the deposit could be lava or mudflows?"