Science

NASA spacecraft spots Mr. Peanut lookalike on Mars surface

Planters' top-hat-wearing peanut mascot seems to be making an appearance in some pits on Mars.

I think this looks like Mr. Peanut spawning Baby Nut, which is even weirder than if it was just Mr. Peanut alone.
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

There aren't any mushrooms on Mars, and there aren't any peanuts, either. But there is a fun south polar formation that resembles the Planters Mr. Peanut mascot when seen from orbit.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped a view of an odd set of rounded shapes on the surface of the red planet. The University of Arizona HiRise camera team responsible for working with MRO images tweeted the shot as a picture of the day on Monday and named it "Mr. Peanut." 

"Sometimes the strange landscape produces something that looks familiar, like the mascot of a certain peanut company..." the HiRise team said. It might take a little imagination, but you can see the legs, arms, body and even the Mr. Peanut top hat. 

As for the extra bubble off to the left, maybe we're witnessing the birth of Baby Nut? Planters famously killed off its long-time mascot in 2020 and then resurrected the anthropomorphic legume as Baby Nut. It's exactly as weird as it sounds.

A natural occurrence on Mars is responsible for the funny shapes. "The south polar residual cap is constantly changing as carbon dioxide sublimates from steep slopes, enlarging pits, and condenses on flat areas, filling pits," wrote planetary geologist Alfred McEwen in a HiRise statement on Monday. 

Sublimation is the process of a solid transitioning directly to a gas. Dry ice going through this process on Mars can create all sorts of intriguing shapes. An MRO image shared in 2016 showed a landscape that resembled an ant farm or worm tracks.

The orbital peanut pareidolia (seeing a familiar object in a random shape) fits right in with some of the goofy rocks NASA's Perseverance rover has seen on the Martian surface. If we can have a butt rock, then we can also have peanut pits.

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