Evidence of Ancient Aliens? Nah, It’s Just Pareidolia (Again)

A curiously human shape rises from the surface of Mercury in this MESSENGER image
A curiously human shape rises from the surface of Mercury in this MESSENGER image

You’ve heard of the Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars, now meet the Mercury Man!

This image, obtained by the MESSENGER spacecraft in July 2011, shows a portion of the floor of Caloris basin — the remnants of an enormous impact that occurred on Mercury nearly 4 billion years ago. Rising from the surface (and dramatically lit by sunlight from the west) is what appears to be a humanoid form. Is this some ancient structure built by an alien race, aimed our way in the hopes of us one day discovering it?

Nah, it’s just pareidolia.

Coming from the Greek words for “besides” and “form,” pareidolia is the term for seeing specific images in otherwise randomly-shaped things… clouds,  trees, water, patterns in wood, and yes, even the surfaces of planets. Our brains are hard-wired to identify faces (unless you suffer from prosopagnosia), the human form, and patterns, and when shown a completely random natural scene — like the cratered surface of Mercury — anything that resembles one of those will immediately be picked up on by our eyes and minds. It’s just human nature. 🙂

Is the image above strong evidence of a purposely-crafted object on the surface of another planet? Certainly not, but it is evidence of Mercury’s geology. MESSENGER scientists think the shape above is a remnant of a harder section of Mercury’s crust that withstood widespread melting after the Caloris impact event.

Then again, the longer I look at it the more it does resemble a particular airborne amphibian I’ve seen recently

Rocket Frog + Mercury Man... coincidence??? HMMMM.
Rocket Frog + Mercury Man… coincidence??? HMMMM.

For more on the pareidolia phenomenon, check out Dr. Ian O’Neill’s article on DNews here.

Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington