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November 12, 2009

Some Cool Astronomy Pareidolia

Pareidolia is our brains ability to see familiar images in random noise. This is what gives us the images of Jesus appearing in everything from grilled cheese to grease stains. I have always thought that pareidolia is also really fun. Astronomy is famous for its great imagery. As would be expected, some of the images have a familiar ring to them.

The most famous is probably Saturn's moon Mimas.

Image Credit JPL/NASA/Caltech
Death Star anyone? Mimas is also cool because that massive crater (the laser cannon), would have almost shattered the entire moon.

Credit: NASA, ESA, P. Kalas, J. Graham, E. Chiang, E. Kite (University of California, Berkeley), M. Clampin (NASAGoddard Space Flight Center), M. Fitzgerald (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and K. Stapelfeldt and J. Krist (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Fomalhaut is a fairly bright star in the night sky. This picture is cool not only because it looks like the eye of Sauron, but also because of the science behind it. The star is at the center, and the ring around it is similar to the Kuiper belt in our solar system. Within that ring, scientists saw, for the first time, a planet orbiting its parent star. For more see NASA

Tinker Bell (or a hummingbird) has been found in the collision of three galaxies. When galaxies collide they can throw stars and gas across space. This leads to arguably the most beautiful pictures in astronomy.

Image Credits: NASA/CXC/CfA/P. Slane et al.

This last image has a really cool resemblance to a human hand. What you are seeing is the result of a pulsar only 12 miles across. The intense magnetic field and rapid rotation of this massive object has created this beautiful nebula.

I wrote this post for two reasons. First is to look at some wonderful astronomy photos. Second is that we often hear of random patterns like these that people see a shape in and want it to be accepted as real. Often the pictures are not as pretty and maybe not even as close of a match. Without more evidence you shouldn't accept that those are anything more than random shapes like these.