Astronomers browsing through the images transmitted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Aug. 13 made an adorable discovery instead of a scientific one: a Muppet is on space.
Of course, it is not a real Muppet, but an image incidentally formed by dust and rocks on Mars. It may have been shaped while the Red Planet battled the turbulent dust storm that sent the Mars Opportunity Rover to sleep in June.
What makes the Muppet's discovery on Mars truly adorable was that it took the shape of Beaker, the careless, most unfortunate science lab assistant of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew from The Muppet Show. Beaker is the most passionate science lab assistant anyone could ever meet, but odds are not always working in his favor. Each of his days in the laboratory will almost always end in hilarious mischief.
Being on the surface of Mars, at least figuratively, Beaker has finally achieved his most important scientific breakthrough so far.
Making shapes or strange forms out of the surface of the celestial bodies in space is a very common occurrence. This phenomenon is called pareidolia. It is when people imagine familiar images where they do not actually exist.
The most popular examples of the pareidolia are the Man in the Moon, the Woman in the Moon, and the Rabbit in the Moon. Most recently, people have also spotted a lizard, Bigfoot, Gandhi, Jabba the Hutt, and Pac-Man.
As for the case of Beaker on Mars, other Twitter users have also made out some other shapes aside from him. They have also seen Scrooge McDuck, Yoshi, and Cookie Monster.
And today’s HiPOD offers up a nice dose of pareidolia as well!#CannotUnsee pic.twitter.com/ZWtdfCCH3d — HiRISE (NASA) (@HiRISE) August 13, 2018
He's not alone ;-) pic.twitter.com/ZIqIQLQvZT — Mischa Visser (@MischaDakar) August 16, 2018
pic.twitter.com/SYlixHjTlb — [منيرة] (@Monirah_A_M) August 17, 2018
pic.twitter.com/XbPNRCkhDU — Mike Montez (@Methinkso) August 16, 2018
The image was snapped by an ultra high-definition telescope aboard the Mars Orbiter, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). The photo was posted on Twitter by astronomers working at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
HiRISE is dubbed to be the most powerful camera ever deployed in space to take photos of the Red Planet. The camera is capable of imaging 30 centimeters per pixel. It was launched in 2005 and arrived on Mars in 2006. The camera has since been working, taking photos for more than a decade now.
Data acquired through HiRISE has been integral in many significant finding published in scientific papers for the past years. The camera provided evidence that saltwater is still existent on Mars. In 2011, HiRISE transmitted images of what appeared to be dark troughs on the Martian planet. These funnels seasonally appeared and disappeared on the surface of the planet.
After a meticulous investigation, NASA announced in 2015 that the dark streaks were actually saltwater that still flows on Mars. The breakthrough discovery proved that Mars’ surface is more than just a desert.
HiRISE has also been helping other spacecraft, such as the Phoenix Mars Lander in 2008, to land on Mars by sending clear snaps of areas without big rocks and boulders.