This week, a photo of a sand dune on the surface of Mars has been making its rounds on the Internet. It was captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and has been trending because of its shape. A lot of people have been quick to point out that it kinda looks like the Starfleet logo from the Star Trek franchise.
Captain Kirk with the Starfleet logo on his uniform
NASA’s HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) Twitter account tweeted the photo on June 13 and even snuck in a joke about the USS Enterprise, the sci-fi franchise’s prized spacecraft. On the HiRISE website, they explained that the shape is a “result of a complex story of dunes, lava, and wind”.
Caption Spotlight (12 Jun 2019): Dune Footprints in Hellas
Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo.
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona#Mars #science pic.twitter.com/N5MfKQPiYt
— HiRISE (NASA) (@HiRISE) June 12, 2019
It further explains how the dunes came to be: “Long ago, there were large crescent-shaped (barchan) dunes that moved across this area, and at some point, there was an eruption. The lava flowed out over the plain and around the dunes, but not over them. The lava solidified, but these dunes still stuck up like islands. However, they were still just dunes, and the wind continued to blow. 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.”
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The HiRISE website then assures that the symbol showing up on the surface of Mars looking like the Starfleet logo is only purely coincidental.