A European satellite saw an incredibly realistic angelic figure – complete with wings, halo and heart – in the southern polar region of Mars. It seems that a Martian artist painted the scene to wish us peace and joy for the holiday season, but there is a very good scientific explanation for the surreal display.
This festive scene was captured by the High Resolution Camera on board the European Space Agency The Mars Express orbiter. Normally, this part of the Red Planet is covered with a thickness of 1.6 km-km thick) layer of ice, but it is currently summer in the southern polar region of Mars. With the ice temporarily gone, Mars Express managed to take pictures landscape, giving us another example of pareidolia (Mars is notorious to make us see things that are not actually there).
Indeed, this apparent painting of a haloed angel, with outstretched arm and a heart beside him, is the result of several geological processes, such as ESA. explain.
The contrasting colors are not above a creamy cinnamon and cocoa, but rather a vast field of dunes, filled with dark minerals that form rocks (mainly pyroxene and olivine, which are also available on Earth).
What appears to be the tip of the angel’s right hand is probably a large sublimation pit. These pits form when ice turns directly into gas, leaving empty holes behind. Sublimation pits can be seen elsewhere in the solar system, including the dwarf planet Pluto.
The halo – perhaps the most attractive feature of the festive scene – is actually the edge of an impact crater. When anything object was crushed on Mars, hit a few layers of deposits below. The angel’s head is composed of these dark deposits, which rest fortuitously in the ancient impact crater, giving the impression of a surrounding halo.
To the right of the figure is a steep escarpment, which outlines much of the heart. Made up of millions of years of erosion, this striking formation contains steep cliffs and slopes and some truly dark deposits, the origin of which is unclear.
As ESA points out, scientists believe that these dark materials “once existed deeper beneath the surface in layers of material formed by ancient volcanic activity.” And, although this material was once buried, “since then it has been brought to the surface by continuous impacts and erosions and then distributed more widely on the planet by Martian winds.”
That’s how it is the super strong optical illusion was forged by some equally cold geological processes. Mars Express has previously seen fascinating features on Mars, including a 50-mile width (80.5-kilometer-wide) rink in the Korolev crater and a giant cinnamon bun at the north pole.