It seems Mars has its next great optical illusion, as a new image from the Curiosity rover apparently shows a spoon jutting out from a rock on the Red Planet.
According to Discovery News, the “floating spoon” image is both an example of pareidolia and a highly unique geological structure.
Pareidolia is what happens when a person looks at something foreign and sees something familiar. NASA detailed this phenomenon in 2001 with the “Face of Mars” illusion. A satellite image taken in 1976 distinctly shows a face appearing on a Martian rock, but images of the same rock taken in 1998 and 2001 show the same rock appearing as just that, a plain rock.
Jim Garvin, chief scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the time of the 2001 image’s release, said his team took time relocating the Face of Mars rock.
“Malin’s team captured an extraordinary photo using the camera’s absolute maximum resolution,” he said in NASA’s news release. “As a rule of thumb, you can discern things in a digital image 3 times bigger than the pixel size.
“So, if there were objects in this picture like airplanes on the ground or Egyptian-style pyramids or even small shacks, you could see what they were!”
Discovery News noted the “floating spoon” is not actually floating, but it is possible thanks to Mars’ thin atmosphere, light gravity and uninhabited surface. It really is thin sliver of a rock a rock jutting out suspended over the ground and casting a shadow below.
But then pareidolia kicks in and causes it to appear to be a spoon.