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'Elephant Face' On Mars Is Really Lava Flood Seen By Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (PHOTO)

Posted: 04/ 9/2012 1:12 pm Updated: 04/ 9/2012 1:12 pm

It looks as if scientists have finally caught a glimpse of life on Mars—well, at least something that looks like life. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped a photo of of a lava flood on Mars’ Elysium Planitia region that looks distinctly like an elephant's face.

The photo, like photos of the Man on the Moon, has been called an instance of "pareidolia,” a phenomenon in which people perceive familiar scenes in otherwise unremarkable images. It was released last Wednesday by NASA's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE).

“An elephant can walk away from the slowly advancing flow front,” Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator for the orbiter's HiRISE camera, said in a statement on the HiRISE website. “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.”

Mars' volcanoes are the largest in the solar system. One lava flow, found in the same Elysium Planitia region, is about the size of Oregon, according to NASA.

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Filed by Melissa Cronin  |