An image taken by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity and currently generating quite a bit of interest on social media features a curious rock form that upon closer examination appears to be a crab hiding among the rocks.
Obviously, it only looks like some sort of Martian crab.
Journey to the Surface of the Mars called it a "Cave guard," adding that the photo is Awesome!, a debatable description:
Seth Shostak, senior astronomer and director of the Center for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligience, told HuffPost Science that he receives images of formations like this one about once a week.
"Those that send them to me are generally quite excited, as they claim that these frequently resemble something you wouldn’t expect to find on the rusty, dusty surface of the Red Planet,” he wrote to HuffPost Science. "It’s usually some sort of animal, but occasionally even weirder objects such as automobile parts. Maybe they think there are cars on Mars."
Instead, what happens is people see faces or objects or animals in rock formations similar to when they see things in the clouds. It's called paredolia, the psychological phenomenon in which the mind perceives a familiar pattern where none exists.
"Recognizing a crab in a landscape filled with wind-weathered rocks is no more suprising—nor more significant—than seeing a winking face in a semi-colon followed by a parenthesis.;)," Shostak wrote.
A Martian crab is much more interesting, however.
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