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Is that Mahatma Gandhi's face on Mars?

June 14, 2011 03:10 IST

An Italian space buff has claimed to have spotted the face of Mahatma Gandhi etched into the rocks of Mars while scanning through latest pictures of the Red Planet.

Matteo Lanneo was surveying the amazing pictures sent from Europe's Mars Orbiter back to Earth when he came across this uncanny resemblance to the father of the Indian nation, Daily Mail reported.

The head appears to have a moustache and shaven head and prominent eyebrows, just like Mahatma Gandhi, it quoted Lanneo as saying.

It is not the first time that a face has been spotted on Mars. In July 1976, the American Viking 1 Orbiter took a photograph that appeared to show a hill in the shape of a human face on the dusty surface of Mars.

Within days of its discovery in 1976, space enthusiasts were speculating that the structure was man-made and had been built by Martians in the distant past.

However, an image taken with Nasa's high-definition HiRISE camera in 2010 showed the face was just a large, rocky hill.

Seeing faces on Mars is a case of pareidolia -- where a random stimulus is perceived as having significance, be it a symbol seen in a cloud or a face on a piece of toast.

Scientists theorise the phenomenon occurs because humans are hardwired to recognise familiar objects as a survival technique, the report said.

ESA's Mars Express has just celebrated its eighth years in space. The Orbiter takes high-resolution images and maps the minerals on the surface. It also explores the subsurface using radar.

Image: Courtesy European Space Agency

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