West Valley Panorma on Mars.  Image Credit:  NASA / JPL / Cornell / James Canvin

No Humanoid on Mars, Just Rocks

Article Updated: 26 Apr , 2016

Okay, once and for all, let’s make this clear. In the words of our esteemed Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, “repeat after me:” A humanoid was not photographed on the surface of Mars. And NASA is not covering up this photo in the name of national security. Furthermore, human missions to Mars have not been cancelled because of this photo. These outrageous notions keep popping up in the media. The photograph, which was taken by Spirit, one of the Mars Exploration Rovers, is just another example of pareidolia, our ability to see patterns in random shapes.

As happens frequently, people tend to see faces or human forms in things like clouds, wood grain, and pancakes. This is only an optical illusion. If you need proof of this, for those of you in the US, look at one of the state-themed quarters from New Hampshire. There you can see the Man in the Mountain, a case of pareidolia that became an historic site (which has since crumbled.)

The photo shown here is the very large panoramic image from which a teeny, tiny rock formation was found that looks kind of human-like. Someone had to be looking really close to see it, as the rock formation is only about 6 centimeters high, and in the image you can also see a hill that’s over 8 kilometers (5 miles) away.

If you have any doubts in your mind that this is nothing more than just a very small, unusual rock formation, please, please, please see Emily Lakdawalla’s thorough explanation of the image at the Planetary Society’s website, which includes 3-D pictures that really make it clear this is not a humanoid. It’s a rock with a funny shape. And Phil the Bad Astronomer has more info on it as well here and here.

And, okay, here’s the really zoomed in image crop that has caused such a hubbub. Just remember how small this rock really is.
tiny detail from a panorama taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit on sol 1,366-1,369 (November 6-9, 2007) of its position on the eastern edge of Home Plate. Credit: NASA / JPL / Cornell

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36 Responses

  1. Alas, no humans on Mars yet. It’s only a matter of time (and lobbying), though.

  2. Yael Dragwyla says:

    No matter how thorough an explanation of the phenomenon is given, and no matter how much objective evidence of whatever kind is given in support of that explanation, believers will never, never, ever give up their belief about it. Unfortunately, because of the deterioration of public education in this country and elsewhere, not to mention pernicious media influence, there are altogether too many of this sort of believer in a) conspiracies, whether by scientists or anyone else, and b) unproven interpretations of such phenomena. More and more Americans — per capita as well as in absolute numbers — don’t know how to think, don’t know that it is important to think analytically about these things, don’t know anything about rules of evidence, scientific or otherwise, and basically don’t care, either. So the media and, increasingly, politicians take advantage of public credulity to push the “little green man/any other explanation is due to a conspiracy” sort of nonsense. Maybe something like a modern version of the Black Death would cure it, by wiping out the idiots and preserving those sensible enough to deal intelligently with it, but I doubt it.

  3. Agent Spooky says:

    No truth in this article, just cover-ups.

  4. Elijah says:

    It’s actually an ancient stone statue left over from times before the human exodus from Mars to Earth. duh guyz.

  5. marcellus says:

    I know folks that I would ordinarily consider to be “normal”, that I care about and respect (for the most part), that still don’t believe the U.S. landed men on the Moon in the late sixties and early seventies.

    It just goes to show you that LOTS of people just aren’t that smart. (Love the Black Death comment.)

  6. El Deano says:

    “As happens frequently, people tend to see faces or human forms in things like clouds, wood grain, and pancakes. This is only an optical illusion. If you need proof of this, for those of you in the US, look at one of the state-themed quarters from New Hampshire. There you can see the Man in the Mountain, a case of pareidolia that became an historic site (which has since crumbled.)”

    And not forgetting Mount Rushmore of course.

  7. John chatelle says:

    The Worst Part is the “where’s waldo” effect.
    Dang if I could find it in the Panorama.

  8. The Scott says:

    Totally don’t see it. Is this the picture in question? Where is it?

  9. rob mince says:

    Seeing faces in stuff is akin to the Gestalt Psychology phenomenon where our eyes and mind tend to seek completion of an image or to make sense of things that don’t necessarily have any sense about them. The Mars image seems to be such a case. For some reason, there are people whose brains are completing an image that is hinted at by their brains. I also we humans feel very alone in the universe and jump at the chance to find a way to cancel our loneliness……..I also believe we’re not alone, but proof may be far away, far far in the future……I hope it’s today!

  10. Gort says:


    Men went to the Moon? Impossible! I Do believe Big Foot went to Mars though.

    I have a really high IQ of 27.

  11. Seymour Marsfaces says:

    Actually , it sort of resembles a Martian Mermaiden (or her brother) … like in Copenhagen sitting on a rock and maybe placed there Eons ago as evidence of past Oceans on Mars……
    They should definitely get closer and view it from different angles to make sure …..

  12. Todd Sieling says:

    I’m all for debunking where needed, but when science advocates and skeptics take the tone of “repeat after me” they sound more like dogmatists than anything.

  13. N Stone says:

    its amazing how many people believe in crap like this, I cant even find it!

  14. Ian Kirk says:

    Sorry I just can’t see it, looks like a piece of rock to me! Really had to squint at the close up too. Is this something wrong with me or do these conspiracy theory people have overactive imaginations? Perhaps they should turn their hands to script writing?

  15. Kevin M. says:

    I like the mermaid concept. Say what you will, it is an extremely evocative image. In the end, inspiring the public’s imagination may be more important than just grinding out facts. This may launch a thousand new sci-fi novels. It’s another classic for the x-files.

  16. Ronald says:

    We are not alone in the universe.
    The universe is infinite. Do you realy think we are the only civilizacion in this vast universe you got be crazy or dumb to believe in this concept. The picture of the humanoid is real , take a look at it very close is brought day light this is a desert all the rocks are the same colors clearly I can see an arm the legs the torso and head you can see this creature is walking down hill. Nasa should have more pictures of this precise location
    if they took more shots on sequences
    that can tell you if this creature was moving or not . Why Nasa don’t show the rest of the pictures

  17. dpeemagu says:

    “And not forgetting Mount Rushmore of course.”


  18. Nancy Atkinson says:

    You can see every picture taken by the Mars rovers at this website:
    Every single raw and processed image that the rovers have taken are available for anyone to look at.

  19. Chuck Lam says:

    Whow! Most of you guys sound like your nuts! Where in the universe is your thinking coming from? This thing on Mars is simply a rock formation. Get over it! Put the comic books away. Move on.

  20. Brian says:

    I agree with several people who have posted about this. We consciously (or unconsciously) try to see familiar shapes in things whose shape is not easily definable (cat shaped cloud, for instance).

    True, if you do look closely, it does “appear” to look humanoid. However, how many other times in history have we claimed that we have seen evidence of life on other planets (or moons). The man on the moon? The face carved into a mountain on Mars? Both of these and more have been examined, and proven to be natural formations.

    Besides, even if there was something alive there, it would need something to eat and drink, and I don’t think that rock and dust would be very palatable. Not to mention the temperature difference due to the thin atmosphere.

  21. Walt says:

    Thirty Years ago, scientists were telling us that we were “unique” in the universe and there was no one else here but us. Now we are being told that there is life everywhere and probably intelligent life. Scientists are listening to the stars to try and eavesdrop on ET.

    I have always believed that NASA has been finding things in our solar system over the past 30 years to make scientists change their minds, and we aren’t being told about what they are finding, probably on orders from the government.

    I suspect they are getting us ready for something and it’s scary what it might be!

    Mulder and Scully, where are you when we need you!!!

  22. Paul says:

    Just to show how pervaisve the effect is you can also “see” an invisible man just above the rover calibration spike in the centre. He’s not small and far away but tall and looking straight into camera. Can’t tell if he’s saying “cheese”

  23. Jamie Kitchen says:

    “I suspect they are getting us ready for something and it’s scary what it might be!”

    Dude, you need to take it easy on the cough syrup.

    Why in the heck would the government want to cover something like this up if they had real evidence?? It would provide an excellent opportunity to introduce heavy controls and limited freedoms. Not to mention unlimited funding for military and science.

    No, the government would be all over this and it would be in you’re face day and night.


  24. Duh, what if the Mar’s inhabitants were only 6 cm tall? Just cuz the planet is bigger than earth, doesn’t mean the inhabitants have to be… Maybe NASA held up the release of the photo so they could sell it on E-bay…

  25. soupy says:

    dude do you really believe Mars is bigger than Earth???

    I suppose you will be saying the moon is the same size as the sun next!!!
    There is life somewhere else in this universe, maybe even in the subsoil of mars, but intelligent life needs to be in the goldilocks zone… which is where some of the plant pots here seem to be!!

    Mars is just not right for intelligent life, but some day we will find intelligent life, maybe not in our lifetimes but someday. They may have even found us already, but we don’t know they are there.
    You all believe in radio waves and microwaves but you can’t see them!

    Be afraid be very afraid… mmuuwwwhhhhhahahahahaha!!!

  26. For all those who favor signs of intelligent life on Mars, please consider the Gusev Crater. It looks like a giant Smiley Face. Is this not proof that Forest Gump was on Mars? I defy you to prove it is not a government conspiracy to cover it up.

  27. I was in error. Yes, true beiievers in Forrest Gump on Mars. It was the Galles Crater. http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/strange_images_010213-8.html Good grief. This may never get on Art Bell.

  28. I admit a mistake. This was the Galles Crater. http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/strange_images_010213-8.html. Will I get on Art Bell now with this theory?

  29. Astinus says:

    If the hill is 5 Kilometers away then the “little man is at least 1.5- 2 Kilometers away, not right in front of the camera as the rover is on the rim of a crater, go to The Grand Canyon and you’ll see how distance is very hard to gauge without a reference point. So thanks for pointing out the distance to the hill, now you need to rethink your little man theory. Also if you find the image that is zoomed out a bit more (Not shown on this site) There appears to be a trail leading downhill toward the strange figure.

  30. Dave says:

    Ever notice, the rocks head here looks similar in shape to the skull shaped rock in other photos?

  31. Allissia Clark says:

    Well this is just one point i have to say about the humanoid picture.We humans do NOT know what that is;only if we visit the planet are we ever going to find out.Alot of people say different things about the picture.We humans just need to find out if that picture was tampered with or go to the red planet our selves to find out! So get your telescopes out and start graphing and taking pictures!!! -Allissia

  32. Ronnie Van Zant says:

    I said it once and I’ll say it again,…there’s things going on that you don’t know.

  33. Ralph Rewes says:

    This comment is insulting:
    There you can see the Man in the Mountain, a case of pareidolia that became an historic site (which has since crumbled.)

    We have pictures of every astral body in our solar system, I haven’t heard anybody seeing so many weird shapes elsewhere but on Mars.

    And every time NASA picks up a landing place, this is flat and bland, while the many places with questionable structures are ignored. Then if the first pictures shows something unusual, days passed without the viewers receiving direct downloading.

  34. Hashi-Tashi says:

    i am actually a believer in the possibility of ancestral life from mars but i don’t necessarily find 100% proof with every single anomalous photograph that is taken.

    did mars at one time have intelligent humanoid life?
    yes, very likely

    do i believe in most of the theories about the cydonia region?
    most of them

    is the gov’t “covering up” a lot of things about mars?
    probably, it’s most likely but i don’t lose sleep over it

    is this a picture of a living being or a statue of some sort?
    i doubt it

  35. anthony says:


    I am reading this thread about six months too late, and I am very disappointed in the critical thinking ability of many Universe Today readers. Why do you think the government is covering up evidence of extraterrestrial life? Are you so paranoid and cynical that you have lost the ability to trust other human beings?

    Please think your comments through to their logical conclusion before posting them on the internet where other “intelligent beings” can read them. Why would a scientific organization cover up the biggest scientific discovery of all time? From a purely political perspective, any scientific org. would stand to gain immense new sources of funding and enjoy a high level of influence on government spending. From a scientific perspective, that organization would enjoy tremendous respect and prestige from the scientific community, let alone the world. Finally, I’m absolutely certain that a little secret like the discovery of extraterrestrial life coul be kept under wraps for any length of time.

    These are but three reasons why you government conspiracy theorists are wrong about this photo. There are many others, and I ask that you think about the possibility you are wrong before stating “facts” on respectable websites such as Universe Today.

  36. Richard Kirk says:

    This is a pretty good image of a person. To me it looks like the little mermaid statue in Copenhagen. It took me some time to figure it out. If you are having some trouble figuring out how a little statuette like this can happen by accident, well it’s not that shape at all. As far as I can gather from the 3D pictures….

    The rock that forms the dark ‘figure’ also has lighter pink surfaces to the right and left of it. These are the same color as the background, and it is hard to distinguish the two. The regions above and below the ‘arm’ are part of the same right-hand surface. The ‘figure’ seems to be a dark or shadowed region formed when the edge between these two surfaces was knocked off. Weathering may have caused the top-left to bottom right striations. The left pancam filter 7 image shows this a bit more clearly than the others. The 3D shape we see is largely an effect of grazing light, and most of the features we see may be concave rather than convex.

    Even when I know what the real shape is, I still see the little mermaid.

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