Baloo, Winnie and the Care Bears now have company in the firmament of famous bears: a strange geological formation resembling the head of a bear cub has been spotted on the surface of Mars by NASA.
Intriguing, the photograph was taken last month by the US space agency's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite, which orbits the Red Planet with the HiRISE high-resolution on-board camera, the most powerful ever sent by humans in the solar system.
A bear on Mars?
“Asks the Twitter account of the HiRISE project, which published the snapshot on Wednesday.
According to scientists from the University of Arizona, who are leading the project, the animal's face is actually formed by "
", which form the eyes and a disembowelled "
" which resembles a snout.
These elements are surrounded by a "
", which delimits the contours of the head and could be formed by a deposit of lava or mud.
The whole thing gives the impression of seeing the smiling face of a teddy bear.
Quite a coincidence, to give a geological formation that stretches over two kilometres.
The HiRISE camera is one of the six instruments on board this NASA satellite, which has been orbiting Mars since 2006. Ultra-precise, it allows very detailed shots to be taken to map the surface of the red planet for future missions carried out by robots or humans.
For ten years, the scientists who manage it have, for example, been able to photograph avalanches on Mars, and have discovered dark traces which could be salt water flowing along gullies.
They also spotted dust devils on the planet's surface, and another geological formation that looks suspiciously like the insignia of the Starfleet force tasked with exploring space in the Star Trek television series.
But even with high definition images, the little green men supposed to populate Mars in the popular imagination have so far proved untraceable.