So that's NOT a tree!?
Is it a tree... or the last march of the Martian Ents... or just a giant hole?
Don't let the latest pictures of the Martian surface fool you — the concentric rings, circular shape and wooden-looking edges in a photo taken by ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, or the TGO, are actually of a crater on the Red Planet's surface that scientists are excited to study.
Just me, or does this impact crater look like a tree stump with characteristic rings?! Worlds apart, but just as tree rings provide snapshots of Earth’s past climate, the patterns inside this ice-rich crater reveal details of Mars history #ExploreFarther
— ExoMars orbiter (@ESA_TGO) January 28, 2022
Hit the Trees
The official TGO Twitter account posted the pic yesterday morning and said it was taken back in 2021 in a post by the European Space Agency.
"This feature could easily be mistaken for a tree stump with characteristic concentric rings," the ESA elaborated. "It’s actually an impressive birds-eye view into an ice-rich impact crater on Mars. Tree rings provide snapshots of Earth’s past climate and, although formed in a very different way, the patterns inside this crater reveal details of the Red Planet’s history, too."
Avid space fans had fun daydreaming about the crater, even though it was immediately clear the image wasn't an actual tree stump.
"There’s a T-Rex silhouette in the middle of the crater," one user commented, attaching an adorable hand-drawn photo that shows the dino they imaged.
This isn't the first time folks went wild for a "tree" on the Martian surface. Back in 2017, a popular UFO-watcher YouTube channel called Paranormal Crucible posted a video of a supposed tree stump captured in an image the NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover took.
It was just a rock, needless to say, but fans and skeptics alike seemed to enjoy themselves in the comments, poking sarcastic fun of the "discovery" or sharing excitement over their belief there really used to be trees on Mars.
Space exploration may be so special to humans because it captures our imagination even when what we thought we saw isn't actually true. The truth is important, and space exploration can further our understanding of life on Earth — but it's also just plain fun to make up stories and imagine giant, walking trees defending the Martian surface from a space-Sauron attack.
More on weird space travel truths: NASA Astronauts Touts the Benefits of Drinking Russian Pee