You’re Not Actually Seeing A Ghost on Mars

2 minute read

The Internet is buzzing about a NASA-captured image of what looks like a ghost woman on Mars.

First people thought they were seeing a massive crab on Mars, and now it’s a ghostly woman. Thanks to TIME’s science writer Jeffrey Kluger, we know the sights are actually due to pareidolia; a phenomenon that makes us see all sorts of things that aren’t really there. It’s when people see familiar images in unfamiliar patterns.

In a story explaining the large crab on Mars image, Kluger writes:

The pareidolia phenomenon is actually a deeply rooted one, something that helps infants focus on faces early and also allowed humans in the wild to spot danger easily—picking a potentially menacing human or animal peering out from a backdrop of leaves or scrub. Yes, more often than not it’s a false alarm, but better to overreact fifty times than under-react even once.

So no, there’s not a ghost woman on Mars, and there’s no giant crab, but it’s probably not the last time there’s a “sighting” of something unusual on the planet.

MORE: Why Your Brain Thinks This Picture Shows a Giant, Martian Crab Monster


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