Seeing Things That Aren’t There

On July, 25 1976, the Viking 1 orbiter transmitted this photo from the Cydonia region of Mars.


Do you see a face in the upper center? Many people did.

Except the “face” was simply a play of light and shadows. Nevertheless, the public’s imagination had been captured, and it is still thought of as the face on Mars (

This photo is actually an example of pareidolia, defined by Merriam-Webster as “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern” ( Think of it as a sophisticated kind of Rorschach inkblot test.

Anyone who has seen familiar objects in a cloud formation should be familiar with this phenomenon. Our brains are simply too active to not make these connections. So if you find yourself seeing things in nature, it’s perfectly normal. There’s even a name for it.

For more examples, check out “Seeing Things That Aren’t There? It’s Called Pareidolia” at

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