No, there isn't a Buddha on Mars. What's behind all these bizarre 'sightings'?

First there was the face of a man, then a rat, even a levitating spoon has been 'spotted' in photos of the Red Planet. The latest 'sighting' stars a 'stunning Martian God.'

NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS
YouTube user Paranormal Crucible claims to have spotted a sculpture resembling a seated Buddha in this Martian landscape captured last year by NASA's Curiosity rover.

Were Martians spiritual beings?

Some enthusiasts seem to believe so, after a new unusual rock formation that resembles Buddha was brought to light by YouTube user Paranormal Crucible.

After blowing up a photo taken by the Mars Curiosity Rover from more than a year ago, the user points out an "artifact" of “stunning Martian god” in top right corner.

While the majority of commenters appear to be giggling at the video as a good-natured hoax, some viewers appear to have latched onto the images as, in their eyes, yet another piece of evidence that there's more happening on Mars than the government wants us to know about.

This photo alone should be enough to convince the United Nations that intelligent life once existed on Mars, but NASA doesn't want anyone to know the truth, because they will be asked to share the info and technology that they have found,”  Scott C. Waring of ufosightingsdaily.com writes upon seeing the video, which features “enhanced and processed” versions.

The final depiction shows a seated figure with a bare human body.

“This is incredible. What a conclusive find concerning past life,” YouTube user Harvey Halloway writes in a comment, posing a theory of his own, “What if life started on Mars as a planet cooling first. As it became less inhabitable and earth became more so we immigrated so to speak. Just a thought on why so many earth like objects are found there.”

Indeed, many bizarre objects have been sighted on Mars, thanks to Curiosity’s high-definition photo capabilities. There was the levitating spoon. The Mars rat. And who could forget tiny Bigfoot, suspended in movement atop an ordinary rock?

For nonbelievers, the phenomenon of seeing faces in inanimate things is called pareidolia, a psychological quirk.  

As the Christian Science Monitor reported in the case of Mars rat,

Pareidolia refers to the tendency of the human brain to perceive animals or other familiar shapes in vague or random images. For example, the face of Christ Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich or a tortilla. The phenomenon has fueled a great deal of excited speculation about the Red Planet over the years, most famously after some people saw a humanoid face on Mars in photos taken by NASA's Viking 1 orbiter in 1976.

As for those who see these images as actual proof for life on Mars, sometimes believing is a remedy for the tumultuous fate of life. According to two studies published in the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal in August, conspiracy theorists are more likely than everyone else to feel a lack of control over life.

“We found that if you give people a feeling of control, then they are less inclined to believe those conspiracy theories,” Jan-Willem van Prooijen, a professor of social and organizational psychology at VU University Amsterdam, told Time magazine. “Giving people a sense of control can make them less suspicious over governmental operations.”

NASA probably isn't hiding proof of deity-worshipping life on Mars. But for some, it's nice to fancy so. 

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