'Bear' on Mars captures internet's imagination

An image from Mars looks like Paddington the bear (NASA)

Is it a bear? A wolf? A "doge"? The internet has mixed opinions on an image released by NASA showing what looks like a bear’s face on Mars.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the Red Planet and sending back high-resolution photos for about 17 years, captured the image on Dec. 12. The orbiting camera is part of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, known as HiRISE, which is managed by the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona.

When HiRISE shared the bear photo on Twitter, the internet had its own ideas about what the figure resembles. Some said it looks more like "Doge," the famed internet meme-turned cryptocurrency. Others posed that it’s an owl’s face.

What it really is, researchers say, is a hill with a V-shaped collapse structure (the nose), two craters for the eyes and a "circular fracture pattern" that makes up the head.

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"The circular fracture pattern might be due to the settling of a deposit over a buried impact crater," HiRISE researchers say. 

"Maybe just grin and bear it," they joked. 

According to HiRISE, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter camera "operates in visible wavelengths, the same as human eyes, but with a telescopic lens that produces images at resolutions never before seen in planetary exploration missions." 

"These high-resolution images enable scientists to distinguish 1-meter-size (about 3-foot-size) objects on Mars and to study the morphology (surface structure) in a much more comprehensive manner than ever before," according to the HiRISE website.