This photo was taken by NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington in August.
What do you see? The Cookie Monster?
According to NASA: "It is the superposition of younger craters on older craters (in this case two smaller craters upon the rim of an older crater) that can result in landforms that appear to resemble more familiar shapes to human eyes."
"More generally, the Law of Superposition allows scientists to determine which surface features pre- and postdate others, leading to a better understanding of the geological history of different regions of Mercury's surface," says NASA.
According to Richard Bent of Laguna Niguel, who spent more than 20 years working on satellites and rockets for the aerospace industry: "The angle of the light brings out the 'Cookie Monster' in this image. There are some other famous space body features out there that look familiar to us. Check out the Martian face and the moon crater with something in the middle. These are all impact craters from space borne stuff thats floating around out there. Our earth gets bombarded regularly with interplanetary debris but our atmosphere takes care of most of these objects."
Marguerite Gaspar, an eighth grade Laguna Niguel Science teacher, says she also thinks the craters look like the Cookie Monster.
"Oscar the Grouch would be far more elliptical, so this is definitely Cookie," she said. "I think the real concept at play here is called pareidolia, the tendency for humans to find faces (and other familiar shapes) in random patterns. There's a nifty article on pareidolia in The Atlantic online that discusses how computer models also exhibit pareidolia."
She says this is not the first time that people have seen faces on Mars.
"There is a very famous image of a face on Mars, released in 1976 and taken from one of the Viking spacecraft. There were (and maybe still are) people (not me) who have all kinds of ideas about lost Martian civilizations and Martian pyramids," she said.
Read more here astrosociety.org/edu/publications/tnl/25/25.html
However, the most likely explanation, pareidolia, is also the simplest, (i.e. Occam's Razor, she said.
What do you think? Do you see the image of the Cookie Monster?