Poor Beaker. The Muppet is best known for being Dr Bunsen Honeydew's much-abused lab assistant (and Guinea pig) – and, of course, his "meep meep" catchphrase.
But now, he has another claim to fame: Beaker is the first Muppet on the Red Planet. That's right, the redhaired puppet has beaten NASA, SpaceX, and Trump's Space Force in the race to reach Mars. (Maybe he's off visiting Gonzo's family?)
For evidence, see this photo astronomers from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona tweeted earlier this week. Squint and you might be able to make out Beaker's bulging eyes, bulbous nose, and gaping mouth.
Have a second to take that in.
In case you wondering whether or not it is lonely up there, fear not. As one Twitter user pointed out, Beaker might have a friend with him.
This particular photo was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard NASA’s Orbiter. It has been able to take some pretty great photos despite the fact that most of Mars has recently been engulfed in a dust storm described as "one of the most intense ever observed" by NASA. The Beaker formation just so happens to be in the south pole, a small area of the planet not hit by the storm.
Of course, Beaker isn't really on Mars. The reason you may be able to observe certain Beaker-like shapes on the Red Planet's surface is down to a phenomenon called pareidolia. That is, the ability to detect faces in objects when there are none. It comes from the Greek words para and eidolon (which literally means "faulty image") and is the same brain trick that is responsible for the Jesus Cheeto, the Jesus pierogi, and the notorious Jesus toast. (Not to forget the classic Virgin Mary cheese toastie.)
As you might be able to tell from the above, religious imagery is a strong theme in pareidolia-type experiences. In 2012, researchers in Finland found that people who are religious or spiritually-inclined are much more likely to notice faces in objects and landscapes.
While we do not really know what causes this phenomenon, astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan believed it was a survival mechanism. The capacity to pick up faces from a distance would have been an extremely useful tool for our ancestors. The small downside to this would be that we are more likely to perceive faces that aren't there and so you have pareidolia. Some scientists think it is the same process behind many UFO, Bigfoot, and Loch Ness Monster sightings over the years.
All we can say is Beaker makes a great addition to the long list of animals, objects, and people that have been spotted on Mars, which already includes Gandhi, Batman signals, a R.O.U.S, and a giant emoji.