Once you see it, you can't shake it; there is indeed an elephant on Mars! Well, it's actually a Martian lava flow in the shape of an elephant's head, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to discuss some Mars geology and why the human brain seems so easily tricked into seeing large mammals in alien landscapes.
First, a little Mars geology.
As photographed by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), this geological feature was spotted in Elysium Planitia, a Martian plain that exhibits some of the youngest lava flows on the Red Planet's surface.
Mars is largely geologically inactive, so active volcanoes and flowing lava are a thing of the past. But the ‘young' lava flows that cover Elysium Planitia may have been emplaced within the last 100 million years - potentially as recent as the last 10 million years. This may not sound recent, but when chronicling billions of years of Mars geological history, a hundred million years is no time at all.