Celebrating Halloween and Investigating Ghoulish Rocks From the Red Planet!
Mars Perseverance Sol 466 - Right Mastcam-Z Camera: NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its Right Mastcam-Z camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover's mast. This image was acquired on June 12, 2022 (Sol 466). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU. Download image ›

Have you ever seen faces on Mars? What about weirdly shaped rocks resembling animals and bones? Rocks with spooky holes and crevices?

Over the course of Perseverance’s time on Mars, multiple images captured by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard the Rover have garnered special attention from the wider public. A recent example of this involved a Mastcam-Z image acquired on June 12, 2022 (Sol 466) featuring a protrusion from the layered rock outcrop which the Internet nicknamed the “snake head.”

NASA's Viking 1 Orbiter spacecraft photographed this region in the northern latitudes of Mars on July 25, 1976. 
Geologic 'Face on Mars' Formation: NASA's Viking 1 Orbiter spacecraft photographed this region in the northern latitudes of Mars on July 25, 1976.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

These rocks inspire our imaginations, but there are reasonable geologic interpretations for these interesting and unusual shapes. Many of the rocks we observe on the surface of Mars were sculpted by aeolian (wind) erosion, rendering their unique shapes. Rocks that are deformed and shaped by wind are called “ventifacts.” The abrasion process can form flutes, pits, and grooves in rocks, leading us to see peculiar illusions in their shapes and shadows.

NASA's Viking 1 Orbiter spacecraft photographed this region in the northern latitudes of Mars on July 25, 1976. 
Highest-Resolution View of "Face on Mars": This high-resolution image was acquired April 8, 2001, by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Extended Mission at 20:54 UTC. Credits: NASA/JPL/MSSS. Download image ›

So why do we see faces and other familiar shapes in rocks? The phenomenon of seeing familiar patterns or objects where none exists is called “pareidolia.” This is best exemplified by a popular image photographed from the Viking 1 Orbiter spacecraft of the Cydonia Mensae mesa known as the “Face on Mars.” Shadows in the rock formation give the illusion of eyes, nose, and mouth, resembling a human face near the center of the image. However, the face was really an eroded mesa covered in dust and ice. When compared with the more recent Mars Global Surveyor 2001 image, the landform only appears to resemble a “face” in low-resolution images with very specific lighting. Carl Sagan explained in his 1995 book “The Demon-Haunted World – Science as a Candle in the Dark” that the ability to identify patterns was a vital evolutionary survival skill to pick out hidden dangers in the surrounding environment. This could explain why many people tend to misinterpret the rocks on Mars for other objects under certain illuminations.

There are no eerie creatures on Mars, but a devilish dust storm is currently brewing in the southern hemisphere. The team is monitoring conditions and planning ahead to avoid any possible disruptions to the rover’s mission goals in the coming weeks. From the Mars 2020 Team and Perseverance, we would like to wish you all a happy Halloween!

About This Blog

These blog updates are provided by self-selected Mars 2020 mission team members who love to share what Perseverance is doing with the public.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these blogs are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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  • Mariah Baker
    Planetary Scientist, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
    Washington, DC
  • Matthew Brand
    SuperCam/ChemCam Engineer, Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos Alamos National Laboratory
  • Sawyer Brooks
    Docking Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Adrian Brown
    Deputy Program Scientist, NASA HQ
    Washington, DC
  • Denise Buckner
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Fred Calef III
    Mapping Specialist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Stephanie Connell
    SuperCam, PhD Student, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Alyssa Deardorff
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Kenneth Farley
    Project Scientist, Caltech
    Pasadena, CA
  • Phylindia Gant
    Mars 2020 Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Brad Garczynski
    Student Collaborator, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Erin Gibbons
    Student Collaborator, McGill University
    Montreal, Canada
  • Michael Hecht
    Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) Principal Investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Westford, MA
  • Louise Jandura
    Chief Engineer for Sampling & Caching, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Elisha Jhoti
    Ph.D. Student, University of California, Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, CA
  • Bavani Kathir
    Student Collaborator on Mastcam-Z, Western Washington University
  • Lydia Kivrak
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Athanasios Klidaras
    Ph.D. Student, Purdue University
  • Rachel Kronyak
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Steven Lee
    Perseverance Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • An Li
    Student Collaborator on PIXL, University of Washington
  • Justin Maki
    Imaging Scientist and Mastcam-Z Deputy Principal Investigator, NASA/JPL
  • Forrest Meyen
    MOXIE Science Team Member, Lunar Outpost
  • Sarah Milkovich
    Assistant Science Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Eleanor Moreland
    Ph.D. Student, Rice University
    Houston, Texas
  • Asier Munguira
    Ph.D. Student, University of the Basque Country
  • Matt Muszynski
    Vehicle Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Claire Newman
    Atmospheric Scientist, Aeolis Research
    Altadena, CA
  • Avi Okon
    Sampling Operations Deputy Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Pegah Pashai
    Vehicle Systems Engineer Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • David Pedersen
    Co-Investigator, PIXL Instrument, Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
    Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Eleni Ravanis
    Student Collaborator, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
    Honolulu, HI
  • Thirupathi Srinivasan
    Robotic Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
  • Kathryn Stack
    Deputy Project Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vivian Sun
    Science Operations Systems Engineer, Staff Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Iona (Brockie) Tirona
    Sampling Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Jennifer Trosper
    Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vandi Verma
    Chief Engineer for Robotic Operations, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Rick Welch
    Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Roger Wiens
    Principal Investigator, SuperCam / Co-Investigator, SHERLOC instrument, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN

Tools on the Perseverance Rover+

The Perseverance rover has tools to study the history of its landing site, seek signs of ancient life, collect rock and soil samples, and help prepare for human exploration of Mars. The rover carries:


Where is the Rover?

Image of a rover pin-point at Perseverance's location on Mars, Jezero Crater

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