Spooky! Rosetta Probe Spots 'the Face on the Comet'

Image: Face on the Comet
A photo from the Rosetta mission has sparked some titters on Twitter about "the Face on the Comet."ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team

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If you're a fan of the "Face on Mars," then you might just have a new best friend. A new photo from the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft has captured what appears to be a face on a comet in deep space, even if it's only a fun optical illusion.

Rosetta captured the photo of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Sunday en route to its historic arrival at the comet. The image shows the 2.5-mile-wide (4 kilometers) comet in its entirety, with the face illusion visible on the right side of the comet.

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Officials with the German Aerospace Center's youth portal (@DLR_next) spotted the optical illusion and pointed it out on Twitter with several tongue-in-cheek posts on Wednesday. The aerospace center, known by the German acronym DLR, is one of the ESA participating in the Rosetta comet-chasing mission.

Seeing faces in space photos is nothing new. They are examples of pareidolia, in which the human brain perceives faces, animals or other shape patterns in random images.

A photo taken by NASA's Viking 1 Mars orbiter in 1976 sparked infamous claims of a "Face on Mars." Subsequent observations by other spacecraft, like NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Europe's Mars Express, have proven the Face on Mars was just a trick of light and shadows.

Other examples of false sightings in space include a rat on Mars, an alien Bio Base and — most recently — a strange flash of light captured by NASA's Curiosity rover.

— Tariq Malik, Space.com

This is a condensed version of a report from Space.com. Read the full report. Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him on Twitter and Google+. Follow Space.com on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.