Audience versions of this page: FamilyOn July 25, 1976, NASA’s Viking-1 satellite captured the famous “Face on Mars” image. The image does not contain a face at all, of course! It is a satellite image of the geography of the Cydonia region of the Red Planet, including hills, valleys, and mesas.The “Face on Mars” is a type of optical illusion called pareidolia. Pareidolia involves seeing or hearing something familiar in an unfamiliar setting. Seeing the shapes of animals in clouds is an example of pareidolia.Another example of pareidolia is the rabbit many cultures see in the craters of the Moon. Yet another is the “Guardian of the Badlands,” a hilly area near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. Viewed with satellite imagery, the hills create what looks like the profile of a man in full Native American headdress—wearing earphones.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry cloud Noun
visible mass of tiny water droplets or ice crystals in Earth's atmosphere.
Encyclopedic Entry: cloud crater Noun
bowl-shaped depression formed by a volcanic eruption or impact of a meteorite.
Encyclopedic Entry: crater culture Noun
learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.
study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.
Encyclopedic Entry: geography headdress Noun
covering, often decorative or ceremonial, for the head.
land that rises above its surroundings and has a rounded summit, usually less than 300 meters (1,000 feet).
Encyclopedic Entry: hill Mars Noun
fourth planet from the sun, between Earth and Jupiter.
broad, flat-topped landform with steep sides.
Encyclopedic Entry: mesa NASA Noun
(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) the U.S. space agency, whose mission statement is "To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind."
Native American Noun
person whose ancestors were native inhabitants of North or South America. Native American usually does not include Eskimo or Hawaiian people.
optical illusion Noun
image seen by the eyes that is different than what is actually there.
optical illusion involving the perception of a familiar pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist.
outline of a face or body, especially as seen from the side.
any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.
Encyclopedic Entry: region satellite Noun
object that orbits around something else. Satellites can be natural, like moons, or made by people.
satellite imagery Noun
photographs of a planet taken by or from a satellite.
depression in the Earth between hills.