It might not be the sign of intelligent life we’ve been hoping for, but some sharp-eyed space enthusiasts have spotted a “large spoon” on the dusty surface of Mars.
The Martian cutlery was first pointed out by the YouTube channel SecureTeam in an image taken by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover in March 2016.
Ok, so it's not an artifact from an extraterrestrial's kitchen, nor does it show the “secret history of Mars”, as the video says. Alas, it’s just a rock. But an interesting rock nonetheless.
This isn’t the first spoon-shaped rock found on Mars. In September 2015, some others spotted a floating spoon-rock on the Red Planet. At the time, NASA’s Mars Curiosity tweeted: “There is no spoon. This weird Mars feature is likely a ventifact – a rock shaped by wind.”
The elongated shape of the rock was carved by winds and dust storms that cruise the planet and sculpt much of the Martian geology. The different atmospheric conditions found on Mars (such as lower gravity than Earth) can create some eccentric-looking rock and dune formations that we don’t find back home on Earth.
As for its uncanny resemblance to a kitchen utensil, that’s just a trick of the mind known as pareidolia. This is the phenomena whereby humans find a recognizable pattern or meaning in something where none exists – a bit like finding discernible shapes in random cloud formations in the sky.
The “offbeat” conditions found on Mars and a healthy dose of pareidolia seems to be why people have spotted everything from rats to pyramids to Buddha on the surface of our closest planetary neighbor.
The truth is out there...