Everyone knows that once you go looking for something, you’re bound to find something that at least resembles what you’re looking for. The human mind works in weird ways like that. I’m not sure who went looking for Han Solo on the surface of Mercury, but I can tell you right now that he has definitely been found, no doubt about it, in an image taken by NASA’s Messenger probe back in 2011. The sighting of Solo himself happened only recently though, which may not bode well for our great hero.
Okay, so it probably isn’t really a fictional Star Wars badass, and is almost definitely just a natural land formation, but the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, who hosts the Messenger’s website, has a sense of humor about it.
For one, the image is called “He Will Not Be Permanently Damaged,” and this is its description: “If there are two things you should remember, it’s not to cross a Hutt, and that Mercury’s surface can throw up all kinds of surprises. In this image, a portion of the terrain surrounding the northern margin of the Caloris basin hosts an elevated block in the shape of a certain carbonite-encased smuggler who can make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.”
As an actual explanation, they offer “This block may be part of the original surface that pre-dates the formation of Calris, which was shaped by material ejected during the basin-forming event.” Then they describe the random shape identification phenomena known as pareidolia, which is what’s happening when you see dinosaurs, faces, and deadly threats in the clouds.
Have we completely ruled out Jimmy Hoffa here? Check out the full image:
Meanwhile, over on Mars, you can surf some of the most incredible waves imaginable. At least that’s what it looks like. The NASAimage seen below, taken on August 31 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), is not of Mars water, but rather shows a lovely series of sand dunes in the Noctis Labyrinthus region in the Valles Marineris canyons. (That’s a sentence it would take me a night of practicing to remember.)
While blue Martian dunescapes are nothing new, this is a pretty incredible picture, displaying two different kinds of windblown landscapes. The veiny appearance has now become what the underside of the monster under my bed looks like. The dark blue comes from the heavy dose of iron in the sand, which has been ground down over the years from volcanic rock.
The HiRISE also gave us the mind-boggling picture below. I want to see more images like this in space films when the astronauts are traveling above Mars. High five, space photography!