Would you call me a quack if I were to tell you that there is a duck on Mars? Well, humans love turning vague stimuli into well-known patterns, a phenomenon called pareidolia, but in this case, the fowl similarity of this rock to a duck fits the bill. Alright, enough duck puns and onto the science.
NASA’s Curiosity rover is exploring Mount Sharp, the massive mountain that forms a central peak in the middle of Gale Crater. Long ago, this crater was underwater and muddy deposits were left here as the water disappeared. Those turned to layered stones, eroded over billions of years by the planet's winds and dust storms. This can result in some very strange-looking geological features, and sometimes they ended up shaped like a duck.
The image was processed by citizen scientist Andrea Luck and it was taken by Curiosity on October 22, 2022. The rover is currently exploring higher terrain at the mouth of the so-called Gediz Vallis on the slopes of Mount Sharp. Curiosity has spent 3,647 sols – Martian days – on the Red Planet and is still going strong.
Other curious "animals" spotted on Mars include a mouse, cat, and snake. A previously unknown animal population on Mars would indeed be news but as far as we know, the current population of Mars hasn't changed just yet (we're rooting for you InSight).