Mars is home to all kinds of odd sights — including one area on the planet that looks just like a giant fingerprint. Among all the planets in our Solar System, it goes without saying that Mars is one of the most exciting. Thanks to its close proximity to Earth and potentially habitable environment, it’s a world that humans are eager to explore as much as possible.
After a few decades of examining Mars with various rovers, probes, and orbiters, we’ve learned a lot about the Red Planet. We know there’s evidence of carbon on its surface, that it was once home to ancient lakes, and that life may have previously existed there. That research has also led to some truly strange photos of different things hiding on Mars. Scientists have found strange rock formations that look like worms, frogs, flowers, and even crashed spaceships.
Related: Perseverance Spots Freaky ‘Mars Frog’ Rock Hanging Out On The Sand
What else is present on Mars? How about an area that looks exactly like a human fingerprint? That’s what NASA revealed in a recent Instagram post published on April 11. Seeing the photo above, it’s difficult to look at it and not imagine a giant fingerprint. It’s a huge indent in the Martian surface with intricate lines and patterns at the bottom. It really does look like someone walked up Mars, squished their finger into its surface, and went about their day.
This Mars ‘Fingerprint’ Is Actually A Large Crater
Of course, that’s not what actually happened. While this certainly looks like a cosmic-sized fingerprint, what we’re really looking at is the Airy-0 crater on Mars. It’s a small 0.3-mile-wider crater on Mars and resides in the larger 27-mile wide Airy crater. In addition to housing the strange ‘fingerprint’ crater, the Airy crater is also famous for being the point of 0° longitude on Mars. Similar to how the Greenwich Observatory is found on Earth’s prime meridian, the Airy crater designates Mars’ prime meridian.
While most Mars photos today come from the Curiosity or Perseverance rovers, this one was captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Reconnaissance launched from Earth in August 2005 and has been orbiting Mars since March 2006. While it may not be the newest instrument for exploring Mars, photos like this prove how useful it remains. Perseverance is great for getting up-close looks at specific rocks and dunes, but Reconnaissance remains superior for getting large, bird-eye views of the Red Planet.