Facing the Martian rubble

By Phil Plait | January 23, 2009 2:30 pm

HiRISE, the awesomely cool camera orbiting Mars, released this very interesting picture of a smallish impact crater on the planet:

The crater is about 300 meters across (as usual, click the picture to embiggenatrize it), and is covered with boulders. That indicates it’s pretty fresh, because after time the boulders get eroded or blown away (though some are 10 meters across!). You see the splash pattern around it too, again indicating relative youth.

When I zoomed in on the crater, though, and took a look, I was surprised to see it looking back at me!

Obviously, it’s my mind playing tricks on me, because it doesn’t look like Jesus.

If you want to keep up with HiRISE and all the amazing pictures it takes, your best bet is to follow it on Twitter. That’s how I found this image. And speaking of Mars, this week’s Carnival of Space is being held at Martian Chronicles.


Comments (55)

  1. Gnat

    Phil, what the heck did you try to draw?

  2. CENTAF blocks Flickr. :( I can’t see the pretty pictures. The HiRISE picture was pretty cool though!

  3. John Keller

    Republicans on Mars.

  4. I will gladly pay you Martis dies for a hamburger today.

  5. Mike

    The image looks high-passed to me. The “freshness” of the rubble may be an illusion.

  6. «bønez_brigade»

    Ehhhhh, now why didn’t that open parenthesis get caught by the link-detector-machinery?

  7. Darth Robo



  8. GK4

    It’s Tintin!

    With a pipe!

  9. Old Geezer

    It’s obviously the KoolAid guy!

  10. JackC

    So have you suddenly gone Hindi?


  11. JT

    I don’t see it either. A dancing elephant?

  12. Donald

    It’s clearly Ganesha. That’s enough evidence for me, I’m becoming a Hindu.

  13. gruebait

    I no longer have a boring ol’ “left mouse button”.

    I have an Embiggenatron!

  14. DrFlimmer

    It’s definetly an “Otti-fant” (some people here who know Otto Waalkes? 😉 )!

  15. Jim

    It looks like a face from an Ukiyo-e print.

  16. MadScientist

    What I like about the photo is that people who know what’s going on will immediately see a big hole in the ground. If you stare at the picture carefully you will see the hole as a bulge instead. Of course it can’t be a bulge unless someone touched up the image. In this picture you can see that the light is coming from the left side and illuminating the raised portion of the rim, forming a bright arc just before the shadow in the hole. You can even see the shadow of the rim on the other side of the image so there’s a progression from bright-dark-bright-dark. If anyone can figure out how that pattern could be produced with a hill rather than a hole, let me know.

  17. Ummm… a fish giving passers-by the ol’ “come on”?

    A frustrated tadpole?

    A map of Alaska after global warming is done with it?

    A senior picture of Caspar the Friendly Ghost?

    I’m so confused…

  18. Mena

    Orcs were originally from Mars? Whaa…?

  19. Nyx

    It’s clearly Ridley from Metroid, with his tail curled under him. Click my name for a link.

    Samus save us!

  20. Chukar

    Anyone can see that’s Richard C. Hoagland

  21. RAF

    Sarah Palin on a bad hair day?

  22. paul

    looks like an elephant

  23. Erik J

    Clearly Cthulhu

  24. IVAN3MAN

    Dr. Phil Plait:

    If you want to keep up with HiRISE and all the amazing pictures it takes, your best bet is to follow it on Twitter. That’s how I found this image.

    For those of you, like me, who can’t be bothered to join “Twitter”, you can get the latest news from HiRISE via RSS news feed (that’s how I found out about that image on 22 January, 2009) at this URL:


  25. Alan French

    I think Phil needs to take a break from writing about paneidolia. His imagination is starting to get the best of him. Cool crater, though.

    Clear skies, Alan

  26. gopher65

    That’s a great crater. I’d like to see a blimp investigate that area. Rovers might have trouble getting around the debris, if it is thick.

  27. knobody

    looks edo period to me. martian shunga?

  28. It’s a Martian cephalopod! Someone alert PZ!

  29. space cadet


  30. The Dark Mark! The Death Eaters are on Mars!

  31. gopher65

    I disavow any knowledge of gophers on Mars, today or in the future.

  32. Jeffersonian

    Does anyone understand what Phil’s purple outline represents?

  33. IVAN3MAN

    Pffft! You all have got it wrong. This is what that crater looks like:

    White-fronted Capuchin
    A male White-fronted Capuchin

  34. Supernova

    It’s George W. Bush, obviously.

  35. IVAN3MAN


    Ehhhhh, now why didn’t that open parenthesis [in the URL] get caught by the link-detector-machinery?

    I’ve had similar problems when I first started posting URL links on this blog, several months ago.

    For some reason, the system there at Discover does not recognize URL’s with parentheses and, consequently, cuts it short. The only way to get around that is to either ‘quote’ the entire URL within double-quotation marks and place it between the appropriate HTML tags with a ‘keyword’ as the link, e.g.:

    <a href=”BloodyAwkwardURL.com” target=”_blank”><CLICK HERE</a>

    or, if you can’t be bothered with all that, incorporate TinyURL.com into the links/toolbar of your web-browser and it will simplify the awkward URL into a more managable one; then just post that one instead.

  36. it’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster! it’s plain to see that Mars has been touched with His Noodly Appendage! ARRRRRR!

  37. Spatula

    That impact looks exactly like a spoon of flour that’s been plopped into the middle of a big bowl of flour.

  38. fatherdaddy

    Heretics! Infidels! Of course you can see Jesus in the crater. You’ve got the hair flowing off to the left, the beard line forming into the mouth and moustache, and Him looking off to the left (Is He telling us he’s a lefty, I think so). I call for a holy war upon the unbelievers. Let The Truth be spread far and wide.

  39. drwilli

    I was confused too at first. But, after looking at it for a day, I realized that what I think Phil has done, in his inimitable style, is take a photo of nothing and do exactly what RCH does. That is to draw lines on the picture and claim it is something it is not. If that is true, I love it. If I am wrong I will do fifteen “hail Copernicuses” to atone. Thanks Phil and keep up the great posts. Maybe I’m ruining the fun and everyone else has already figured this out.

  40. Bharat

    Why is it that most of the impact craters are near circles. (Which I assume happens when the object drops straight in). Do we have impact craters which are, say like a long ellipse.

  41. Tim

    Phil – I think that you are becoming overly fixated (is that redundant?) on this whole “images that look like religious items” issue. Give it a rest and get back to what you are good at. ASTRONOMY. Thanks

  42. Chris A.


    Most craters are circles because when the impactor hits, it explodes. Don’t think of it “drilling” into the surface so much as hitting and exploding. Thus, a circle. That being said, there are a small number of craters that show an elliptical shape, thought to result from impactors coming in at extremely shallow angles (<5 degrees from horizontal).

  43. Chris A.


    Nah, it’s Mars expressing its opinion of pareidolia. It looks to me like a left hand (tilted to the left about 30 degrees) giving us the bird.

  44. owlbear1

    That is obviously the Gorn with a rock in his hand.

  45. owlbear1

    “If you stare at the picture carefully you will see the hole as a bulge instead.”

    I have to stare very carefully to NOT see craters as bulges.

    Makes Mercury look like it has a bad case of measles.

  46. JoeTheJuggler

    No–it’s still Jesus. Just like this one:


    Gaze at the crater, then look away (preferably at an image of Jesus) and you’ll see a perfect image of the Shroud of Turin. . . or something.

  47. JoeTheJuggler

    No–it’s still Jesus. Just like this one:


    What you do is gaze at the crater for 30 seconds, then look away (preferably at an image of Jesus), and you’re sure to see an unmistakable likeness of the Shroud of Turin. . .or something.

  48. @Phil’s response to Tom: ROFLMAO!!!!

  49. A.Simmons

    UK readers of a certain age will surely recognise the unmistakable silhouette of Billy the Fish, the half-man, half-fish goalkeeper for Fulchester Utd (from Viz.)

    Do I take it that some supernaturalists are seriously claiming that their $deity has manifested in this image, somehow? Let me guess which country in the world they could be in. Hmmm…

  50. Wendy

    Looks like Slimer to me! Who ya gonna call?!?


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