NASA Spots a Martian Feature That Resembles the 'Star Trek' Logo

The 'ghost dune' was created by a volcanic eruption on Mars.
June 14, 2019, 2:42pm
Hellas Planitia dune cast. Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona​
Hellas Planitia dune cast. Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Star Trek continues to find new incarnations on screen, but that’s not the only place that the Starfleet insignia is showing up.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently spotted a geological feature that looks a lot like the beloved franchise’s logo in the southeast Hellas Planitia region of the red planet.

Unfortunately, this Martian surface formation isn’t some kind of time-hopping message from the future Federation. It’s actually a “dune cast,” meaning the remains of an ancient dune preserved by a past volcanic eruption on Mars, according to the University of Arizona team that imaged the structure.

When lava flowed around the bottom of these dunes, it solidified their contours, even as dust at the tops of the dunes continued to be blown across the Martian surface. What remains is like a volcanic mould of the dune base from the past.

This is not the first time these crescent patterns, sometimes called “ghost dunes,” have been found on the surface of Mars. Martian regions such as Hellas Planitia or Noctis Labyrinthus contain hundreds of dune casts, but few have such a dead-on resemblance to the Star Trek logo.