A NASA spacecraft spotted what looks like a Star Trek symbol on Mars, which suggests the fictional Starfleet has landed in our neighborhood. Unfortunately for Star Trek fans, the symbol that was quick to go viral is a combination of different processes on the Red Planet, including lava, wind and much more.
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) June 13, 2019
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The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter surveys the planet looking for new things to discover. Its most recent discovery includes a rather strange shape on the Martian surface which highly resembles Star Trek’s Starfleet symbol. Starfleet is a fictional intergalactic organization which focuses on space exploration, diplomacy, research and keeping the peace in space.
The Star Trek symbol on Mars was found southeast of the Hellas Planatia region, and it is a result of wind, lava and dunes. Hellas Planatia is a large plain area located within the Hellas impact basin in the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet. Researchers believe that throughout Martian history, the dunes there were moved by the wind into the shape of a crescent. Throughout its history, Mars was likely geologically active, which caused eruptions of lava that affected the dunes but didn’t cover them. Once the lava cooled, the dunes took a Star Trek Starfleet-like shape.
The wind then moved the dunes. Scientists call their footprints “dune casts,” which were left behind in the lava field. Unfortunately, for Trekkies, the fictional Starfleet hasn’t built a base on Mars, so we won’t get to see Spock, Jean-Luc Picard and Michael Burnham explore the Red Planet before us. The Star Trek symbol on Mars is nothing but a mere coincidence produced as a result of lava, wind and dune activity.
This is not the first time the MRO caught images of dunes on Mars. The University of Arizona team that manages the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on the MRO spent years studying shapes and features on the Martian surface.
“Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo,” the University of Arizona said in a statement. “You’d be right, but it’s only a coincidence.”
The team believes there is a good sense behind the creation of those images. including this particular shape.
“However, they were still just dunes, and the wind continued to blow,” the statement continued. “Eventually, the sand piles that were the dunes migrated away, leaving these ‘footprints’ in the lava plain. These are also called ‘dune casts’ and record the presence of dunes that were surrounded by lava.”