Images from Mars which feature an outcropping of rocks has inspired conspiracy-minded people across the Internet to claim that rodents may be living on the surface.
The supposed "Mars rat" can be seen in a panoramic photo snapped by NASA’s Curiosity rover in September of 2012. The image is said to show what appears to be a rodent nestled between rocks, seemingly sniffing the ground.
Scott Waring, writer at UFO Sightings Daily writes "It's a cute rodent on Mars. Note its lighter-color upper and lower eyelids, its nose and cheek areas, its ear, its front leg and stomach.” In an update to his post, Waring raised the rather amusing possibility that NASA flew the rat/squirrel to Mars secretly, as part of an experiment to find out if Mars can sustain life.
"Why would they not tell us about it?" writes Waring. "Because the squirrel would be expected to die eventually and that would get PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, to fight against them in a court of law."
The Mars rat is not having a viral moment online, going from the pages of UFO Sightings Daily to more mainstream publications such as Discovery News, SPACE.com Fox News and more. The “rat” even has its own Twitter account, @RealMarsRat.
While it is a course of fun and imagination, the stories about the Mars rodent are actually an example of a psychological phenomenon called pareidolia. Pareidolia is considered to be the tendency of the human brain to perceive animals or other familiar shapes in vague or uncertain images. The phenomenon has fueled a great deal of conspiracy speculation about the Red Planet over the years, including seeing faces and even other animals.
What do you see in the picture? Do you see a rat?