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“Mars Rat” is Just a Rock on Mars, Not a Rat, Because Apparently People Need to Hear That

Just because a rock looks like an animal doesn't mean that there's a rat on Mars, so everybody relax.

Not A Mars Rat

I’ve seen this story popping up a few places, and it’s been getting on my nerves. What you see in that picture is not some kind of Martian rat or lizard. It is a rock. It’s not even a rock that looks that much like a rat or a lizard. Our brains are wired for us to recognize familiar shapes and see faces. That’s all this is.

The image was taken by the Curiosity Rover, and then UFO conspiracy theory site UFO Sightings Daily got hold of it from someone in Japan. Here’s the original image:

Mars Rat Original

Can you Where’s Waldo? a space rat out of this picture? Here it is:

Mars Rat Original Circle

What’s happening here is called pareidolia. It’s a phenomenon of the human brain where it likes to see faces. It’s why electrical outlets look like faces, and how two dots and a line can make a recognizable smiley face. Scott McCloud covers it nicely in Understanding Comics.

There is no Mars rat, and it’s driving me crazy to see so many news outlets giving credence to this nonsense, so let’s play a game. Here’s a link to the hi-res version of the image. Let’s all go through and zoom in on rocks and shadows and see what fun animal shapes we can find! Email the best ones to [email protected] account, and I’ll put them up this weekend. Then we can all be famous conspiracy theorists! Fun!

I hope someone finds a space giraffe!

(via Huffington Post, image via NASA/JPL)

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Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.