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Mickey Mouse spotted on Mercury in NASA photo

Baku, June 19 (AZERTAC). Forget Pluto, a hidden Mickey Mouse lives on Mercury. A NASA spacecraft has captured a spectacular photo of Mercury craters arranged in a shape that looks just like Disney`s iconic cartoon mouse. The photo comes from NASA`s Messenger spacecraft in orbit around Mercury and shows a giant crater topped with two smaller impact basins to create the recognizable shape. "The shadowing helps define the striking `Mickey Mouse` resemblance, created by the accumulation of craters over Mercury`s long geologic history," Messenger mission scientists explained in an image description on Friday (June 15). The photo was taken by the Messenger probe on June 3, but was publicly released by NASA on June 15. The Mickey Mouse on Mercury is formed by a huge crater about 65 miles (105 kilometers) wide that was later peppered by other impacts to create the "ears." The scene is located to the northwest of another crater that Messenger scientists recently dubbed "Magritte" in Mercury`s southern region. The view of Mickey on Mercury is a good example of pareidolia, a phenomenon in which the human brain recognizes shapes, such as people or animals, in random images. In fact, the actual position of the craters on Mercury is such that if the direction north was at the top of the view, the larger crater would appear above the smaller ones, Messenger officials said. NASA`s Messenger spacecraft (its name is short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) launched toward Mercury in 2004 and arrived in orbit around the planet in March 2011. The $446 million mission was initially aimed at mapping Mercury for one year, but has since been extended by another year. he planet Mercury is in the process of being extensively photographed by NASA`s MESSENGER orbital spacecraft. Among its many geological features, the planet nearest the Sun also revealed a series of craters that resembled the popular mouse: One large round one (for the face) with a a couple smaller ones at the ten and two o`clock positions (for ears). The area is pocked with various craters but a few more even lend the appearance of eyes and a nose. The mental phenomenon of ascribing a familiar pattern to an unfamiliar shape, set or display of images is known as pareidolia. It is a coping mechanism to help in mentally assimilating the strange, the alien, and the unknown. It is the basis of the imaginative children`s game of giving name to the shapes of clouds, and it is employed by psychologists to help ascertain cognitive patterns associated with human behavior (Rorschach, or ink blot, tests). And it is responsible for millions seeing an ambulatory Big Bird hot-stepping across the Sun and the face of Mickey Mouse smiling from the crater-punched surface of the Solar System`s hottest planet. Mercury`s Mickey Mouse pareidoliac image was discovered as a result of the MESSENGER mission`s mapping of the tiny planet`s surface. The mouse-like image was captured as a part of high-incidence-angle base mapping, a process that takes photos when the Sun is on the horizon, producing shadows cast from the surface`s higher features. The shadows help accentuate the resemblance to the Disney character. MESSENGER, which is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, has taken nearly 90,000 photos sincebeginning its mission above the small planet in March 2011. It will take approximately another 80,000 pictures in the next year to complete its scientific tasks.

 

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