Even as scientists are searching for tell tale signs that are indicative of conditions that would have favoured life on Mars a few billions years ago, it appears that the red planet may well have a rat! Forget rat, a picture taken in 2012 by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows the head of an elephant.

Even humans seem to have inhabited Mars, if one were to believe the photo taken by Viking 1 Orbiter more than three decades ago!

Many would have seen clouds resembling familiar shapes or a face staring back from the patterns on a burnt toast or sandwich.

Humans have long known to display a tendency for identifying shapes or hearing sounds from random sources and attaching significance to them. Scientists call this psychological phenomenon of deciphering shapes from random patterns as ‘pareidolia.’ The Martian artefact is a product of the same — something which our rodent-spotting bloggers were prey to recently.

On September 28, 2012 the right eye camera of the Mast Camera (MastCam) installed on the rover Curiosity took a series of pictures of a site called ‘Rocknest’ on Mars attempting to identify a suitable spot to collect the first samples of Martian sand.

Two months later, pictures of a rodent crouching between rocks, hidden in the panoramic shot but visible on closer inspection, have been circulating on the internet.

The first picture of the unlikely ‘Martian Rat’ was posted in a website called UFOSightingsDaily in December, where the author claimed that a rodent was on the loose on the Martian surface.

A more recent post by a Japanese blogger in March 2013, quoted by the website, shows another picture of a rodent-like animal on the red planet.

The ‘Martian Rat’ has its own Twitter account and 800-odd followers in the social network; it has also taken the media by storm. The twitter handle is: @ RealMarsRat

As for the elephant and human face that was spotted some time back on the planet? The elephant’s head was nothing but lava flowing at an ancient volcanic site.

The myth surrounding the ‘Face on Mars’ was dispelled in 1998 when the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) pictured it from close quarters. It turned out to be just a hill.

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