Cosmic dead ringers: 27 super strange-looking space objects

From a Death Star moon to a comet cat, space is full of weird and wild objects and celestial formations that look like other things.

Amanda Kooser
1 of 27 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Mimas, the Death Star moon

Join us on a romp through the universe as we look at wondrous images from space, including a Game of Thrones symbol on Mars, Mr. Hankey on Jupiter and moons that look like you could eat them.

Saturn has dozens of moons, so it's no wonder at least a few of them remind us of more Earthly objects. The moon Mimas is a sci-fi favorite thanks to its resemblance to the Death Star from Star Wars. 

Mimas is 246 miles (396 kilometers) in diameter, which is much larger than the Death Star is supposed to be. The large round crater seen on the side here is a dead ringer for the big dish on the Death Star. 

Update, April 26, 2019: Adds images of comet 67P, Ultima Thule, Jupiter and others.

2 of 27 NASA/STScI Digitized Sky Survey/Noel Carboni

Witch Head Nebula

What do you see when you stare at this processed image from the Hubble Space Telescope? If you look closely, you might see a witch's head, with a pointy chin and nose facing to the right, along with the ghost of a hat on top. NASA shared this image of the eerie Witch Head Nebula in mid-2015. 

Fishy rock
3 of 27 NASA/JPL/Circle added by Amanda Kooser/CNET

A fishy rock on Mars

Alien and UFO fans enjoy looking for unusual shapes seen in the rocks of Mars. NASA's Mars Curiosity rover sent back this image in 2016. It doesn't take much imagination to see a fish shape in the circled rock formation. It isn't a fish, but it is a fun coincidence.  

Halloween sun

Jack-o'-lantern sun

NASA released this uncanny image of the sun as seen by the Solar Dynamics Observatory during the lead-up to Halloween in 2014. The active regions around the sun showed in just the right pattern to make our closest star look like a carved pumpkin jack-o'-lantern.

5 of 27 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major

Jovey McJupiterface

Citizen scientist Jason Major processed an image taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft in 2017. The rotated image shows two storms that look like eyes and a wide mouth etched into the planet's swirling storm systems. Major gave the image a playful title: "Jovey McJupiterface."

Enterprise nebulae
6 of 27 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Star Trek's Enterprise shows in nebulae

NASA celebrated Star Trek's 50th anniversary in 2016 with this entertaining image of two nebulae as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope. 

The space agency outlined the two most famous versions of the franchise's Enterprise starship, with the original series ship on the right and "The Next Generation" ship on the left. It's a fun resemblance. 

7 of 27 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

UFO moon

Saturn's small moon Atlas is an identified orbiting object that happens to look a bit like the classic Earth version of a retro-style UFO piloted by aliens. NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught this view of Atlas in 2017. 

Twin Jet Nebula
8 of 27 ESA/Hubble & NASA. Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

A space butterfly

The Twin Jet Nebula spreads its space wings in this 2015 image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The nebula has two lobes reaching out from a central star system, which makes it look like a winged butterfly suspended out in the cosmos.

9 of 27 NASA/ESA/A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center)

Jupiter stares back

NASA released this Hubble image of Jupiter in 2014 and highlighted its spooky nature just before Halloween. The oval Great Red Spot storm sports a shadow thrown by the moon Ganymede. It makes it look like Jupiter has a cyclopian eye staring out into space. 

10 of 27 NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Red circle by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Spoon on Mars

Somebody must be hungry on Mars. UFO fans spotted this unusual formation that looks like a spoon on the surface of the red planet. It comes from a photo snapped by NASA's Curiosity rover in 2016. The play of shadows makes the utensil shape really stand out.

11 of 27 G. Dubner (IAFE, CONICET-University of Buenos Aires) et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF; A. Loll et al.; T. Temim et al.; F. Seward et al.; Chandra/CXC; Spitzer/JPL-Caltech; XMM-Newton/ESA; and Hubble/STScI

Space crab

This spectacular composite image of the Crab Nebula from 2017 includes contributions from five different observatories, including the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. The leg-like formations seen in the nebula help to give it its evocative nickname.

12 of 27 Jack Fischer/NASA

E.T.'s finger seen from space

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer took his first trip to the International Space Station in 2017. He snapped this photo of an island and shared it on social media, noting how it looks like the bulbous tip of the friendly alien's finger from the 1982 Steven Spielberg blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

13 of 27 NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Potato moon

Saturn moon Prometheus has a heavily cratered surface and an unusual oblong shape that make it look a lot like a russet potato. This view of Prometheus comes from NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2015. Saturn's F ring is visible as a faint line up at the top of the image. 

14 of 27 NASA

Horsehead Nebula

The Hubble Space Telescope got a good look at the Horsehead Nebula in 2013. The nebula gets its nickname because it resembles a horse's head and neck, with the nose facing to the left in this image. The scenic formation is located about 1,500 light-years away in the Orion constellation. 

15 of 27 NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

Dungeons & Dragons asteroid

Asteroid 2017 BQ6 passed by in early 2017 at a safe distance from our planet, but it was still close enough to appear in radar images taken from Earth. NASA asteroid researcher Lancer Benner noted how the asteroid resembles a set of tumbling dice like those used for playing Dungeons & Dragons. 

16 of 27 NASA

Space invader

The Hubble Space Telescope looked to the stars in 2013 and found a character from the classic video game Space Invaders

"The gravitational field surrounding this massive cluster of galaxies, Abell 68, acts as a natural lens in space to brighten and magnify the light coming from very distant background galaxies," the Space Telescope Science Institute says. "Like a funhouse mirror, lensing creates a fantasy landscape of arc-like images and mirror images of background galaxies."

17 of 27 NASA/JPL

Ravioli moon

Saturn's bite-size moon Pan looks a lot like a piece of ravioli pasta. This image of the 17-mile-across (28 kilometers) moon comes from NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2017. 

Cassini imaging chief Carolyn Porco tweeted a list of all the foods the little moon seems to resemble, including tortellini, an empanada, a pierogi and a hamburger. Unfortunately, Pan is not edible.

A 1700-year-old pulsar and its nebula, located about 17,000 light years from Earth.
18 of 27 NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane, et al.

Pulsar lends a hand

A pulsar lies at the heart of this nebula image captured by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. NASA released the image, which shows the nebula looking like a reaching hand, in 2009. 

"The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand," the observatory noted.

19 of 27 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Tethys, the eyeball moon

Saturn's moon Tethys has a classic spherical look, but it also sports a large crater that makes it resemble a giant eyeball out in space. A set of peaks in the center form an "iris." The crater is named Odysseus. 

NASA highlighted this Cassini spacecraft view of Tethys in early 2017.

Pluto surface

Pluto's slug

Dwarf planet Pluto displays an interesting surface in this 2016 image from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. It shows an icy-plains region with a strange black formation near the center. That formation may look a lot like an Earth slug, but NASA notes it's "likely a dirty block of water ice 'floating' in denser solid nitrogen."


Comet cat

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft visited Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. Views from a distance revealed a space rock that looked a bit like a rubber duck, but this closer view resembles a cosmic cat staring off into space.

22 of 27 NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Ultima Thule as a snowman

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft visited Ultima Thule, a contact binary primordial space rock, in early 2019. Initial views made it look very much like a space snowman, but later looks revealed more of a pancake appearance.

23 of 27 NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Stark sigil on Mars

A team at the University of Arizona runs the HiRise camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. They got a case of Game of Thrones fever while viewing these dust avalanches on the red planet. The team suggested the black shape looks like the direwolf sigil for House Stark

24 of 27 NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Mars goes shag

Mars' South Polar region looks very soft and welcoming in this NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter view from late 2018. What we're seeing is a set of curved ridges of mysterious origin, but it also looks like what you would find if you put your face up close to a '70s shag carpet

25 of 27 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

Mr. Hankey in Jupiter's clouds

This processed image of Jupiter comes from NASA's Juno's spacecraft with some enhancement work by Kevin Gill. What's really noticeable is the brown formation among the planet's swirls. If you're a South Park fan, you know exactly what it looks like: Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo. 

26 of 27 NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR/NSF/GBO

Hippo asteroid

NASA captured radar images of asteroid 2003 SD220 in late 2018 and discovered what looked like a space hippopotamus. The near-Earth object passed by at a safe distance, but its amusing shape left a lasting impression.

27 of 27 Ricky Arnold/NASA

Satellite or Borg ship?

Astronauts on the International Space Station released a satellite called RemoveDebris in mid-2018. Star Trek fans everywhere got goosebumps. The satellite could pass for a mini version of a cube-shaped Borg spaceship. RemoveDebris was much less threatening. It went on to demonstrate methods for capturing orbital garbage.

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