Pareidolia seems to have struck again: A NASA photo wherein an object shaped like a pyramid was captured by the NASA Curiosity rover on Mars has got alien hunters and UFO enthusiasts in a internet-driven uproar. But the space agency, after noting the interest gained by the photo (and the subsequent theories of alien origin) admit the Mars object does have a pyramidal shape but find no evidence that its anything other that a geological formation. That is, NASA thinks it is just a rock.
The Christian Science Monitor outlined the current “debate” over the Mars pyramid June 25, noting that it all began when the YouTube channel Paranormal Crucible, a prolific alien theorist posting outlet, posited that the pyramid-shaped object, estimated to be as large as a car, was the capstone of a buried ancient pyramid. This, of course, suggests that there is a larger pyramid elsewhere, including perhaps directly under the object itself.
Other websites have joined in, like Exopolitics.org. Dr. Michael Salla posted that it is his belief that NASA deliberately went out of their way to prevent displaying a variety of viewpoints of the object to the public after the first Curiosity photo was taken (May 7).
(Note: For those following the Mars Curiosity rover’s laborious traipsing across the Martian landscape, it is already known that NASA has a mobile itinerary. While making its way, the SUV sized rover vehicle is designed, according to Space.com, to be able to surmount obstacles as high as 25 inches but crawls at an average speed of about 660 feet (200 meters) per day. So there really isn’t going to be much jockeying around certain objects to get a better photographic vantage point. Besides, NASA has admitted that the pyramidal object wasn’t noticed by the agency at the time it was taken.)
But Jim Bell, a professor of planetary science at Arizona State University and a member of NASA’s Mars rover exploration team, says it is rather unlikely that Martians built a standing structure like the pyramids found in ancient Egypt. In an interview with USA Today Network, Bell confirmed that the image was of a pyramid-like formation, but noted that natural formations with smooth (even pyramidal) sides can be the result of erosion. He says it’s not all that uncommon for natural formations to appear as recognizable objects. “The human eye is good at recognizing familiar shapes or human features in random objects,” he said.
This pattern recognition is a psychological perception mechanism known as “pareidolia,” and it is the most common cause for misinterpretation and/or wishful thinking (willful or otherwise) of unidentified structures with regard to NASA photos. Thus far, the Martian landscape has provide aliens on motorized vehicles, a gun, statues and statue heads, a Sphinx-like structure, and many other objects. Almost all of these have been posited as evidence of ancient or even extant alien civilizations on Mars (and other celestial bodies), and almost all of them have been debunked as being nothing more than oddly shaped rocks. Even a recent NASA photo of the dwarf planet Ceres prompted alien hunters to theorize the existence of a 3-mile-high pyramid, when, as NASA explained, it is most likely just a large mountain rising up from Ceres’ smooth surface. (Translation: one big pile of rocks — with somewhat smooth sides.)
Call it the “Charlie Brown conclusion” or the “Charlie Brown Eventuality Rule.” In the iconic “Peanuts” cartoon, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” where the gang is out trick-or-treating, when they all gather after each house to see what kind of treats they’ve had placed in their sacks, while everyone else gets a treat of some kind, poor Charlie Brown, always the last to say what he’s received, tells the gang, “I got a rock.” And thus far, just about every time an alien theorist or UFO enthusiast points out the existence of some possible alien artifact, such as the Mars pyramid, NASA eventually tells them it is just a rock.