Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
Every once in a while, something grabs scientists’ attention and makes them smile. The “Happy Face Crater” on Mars is one of them. This crater, also called Galle Crater after German astronomer J.G. Galle, is about 134 miles (215 kilometers) across and sits at the edge of the Argyre Planitia. This smiley face image was taken by a camera aboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express.
The crater was first pointed out during NASA‘s Viking Orbiter 1 mission in 1976. The large impact crater is the result of a large comet or asteroid that slammed into Mars millions of years ago. Mars’ surface looks much like the Moons with impact craters and basins, all left over from the early days of the solar system. Because the Moon has no atmosphere, wind and rain haven’t softened those features like on Earth. Mars has a little atmosphere and the Happy Face Crater shows a surface softened by wind, dust devils and maybe some water.
There are many features on Mars that resemble faces or heads such as the “Face of Cydonia.” Those features are tricks of light and shadow. In the case of the Happy Face Crater, peaks, craters and ridges form the eyes, nose and mouth of the crater and they are all natural.
Explore Google Mars and find more faces and heads.