Bigger than the average bear: There’s a 2km-wide bear face on the surface of Mars, space scientists say – Copyright AFP CRISTINA QUICLER
Yogi, Paddington and Winnie the Pooh, move on. There’s a new bear in town. Or on Mars, anyway.
The beaming face of a cute teddy bear appears to have been carved into the surface of our nearest planetary neighbor, waiting for a satellite to pass by to discover it.
And when the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passed by last month, carrying on board the most powerful camera ever to venture into the Solar System, that’s exactly what happened.
Scientists operating HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), which has been circling Mars since 2006, analyzed the data returned to Earth and have now released an image of the face.
“There is a hill with a V-shaped collapse structure (the nose), two craters (the eyes) and a circular fracture pattern (the head),” said the scientists at the University of Arizona, which operates the kit.
Each of the features on the 2,000 meter (1.25 mile) wide face has a possible explanation that suggests how active the planet’s surface is.
“The circular fracture pattern could be due to deposit settlement on top of a buried impact crater,” the scientists said.
“Maybe the nose is a volcanic or mud vent and the deposit could be lava or mud flows?”
HiRISE, one of six instruments aboard Orbiter, takes super-detailed images of the Red Planet that help map the surface for possible future missions, whether by humans or robots.
Over the past ten years, the team has managed to capture images of avalanches as they occur and discovered dark flows that could be some kind of liquid.
They also found swirling dust eddies on the Martian surface, as well as a feature that some people thought looked a lot like the Star Fleet logo from Star Trek.
One thing they haven’t found, however, are the little green men once popularly believed to inhabit the planet.