Elephant on Mars Created by Flood of Lava

Posted on April 9, 2012

University of Arizona planetary geologist Alfred McEwen says the elephant on Mars (pictured above) is an example of pareidolia. He writes on the University's HiRISE blog, "This observation highlights terrain that looks like an elephant. This is a good example of the phenomena "pareidolia," where we see things (such as animals) that aren't really there."

The elephant-like feature was created by the dried flood of lava in Elysium Planitia, the youngest flood-lava province on Mars. There is evidence of some rapidly flowing lava on Mars, like an actual flood of lava. Most lava floods move much more slowly on Earth.

McEwen says, "Most lava floods on Earth are emplaced over years to decades, and this is probably true for much of the lava on Mars as well. An elephant can walk away from the slowly advancing flow front. However, there is also evidence for much more rapidly flowing lava on Mars, a true flood of lava. In this instance, maybe this elephant couldn't run away fast enough."

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