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'Face' on Comet 67P Spotted by Rosetta Spacecraft (Photo)

'Face' on Comet 67P
German Aerospace Center's youth portal DLR_next tweeted this photo showing the "face" on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Aug. 6, 2014. (Image credit: DLR_next (via Twitter as ‏@DLR_next))

If you're a fan of the "Face on Mars," then you might just have a new best friend. A new photo from Europe's Rosetta spacecraft has captured what appears to be a face on a comet in deep space, even if it's only a fun optical illusion.

Rosetta captured the photo of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Sunday (Aug. 3) while en route to its historic arrival at the comet earlier today (Aug. 6). The image shows the 2.5-mile-wide (4 kilometers) comet in its entirety, with the face illusion visible on the right side of the comet.

Officials with the German Aerospace Center's youth portal DLR_next (@DLR_next) spotted the optical illusion and pointed it out on Twitterwith several tongue-in-cheek posts today. DLR is one of the European Space Agency members participating in the Rosetta comet-chasing mission.

Schon "the face" entdeckt? ;-)

Seeing faces in space photos is nothing new. They are examples of pareidolia, in which the human brain perceives faces, animals or other shape patterns in random images.

A photo taken by NASA's Viking 1 Mars orbiter in 1976 sparked infamous claims of a "Face on Mars." Subsequent observations by other spacecraft, like NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Europe's Mars Express, have proven the Face on Mars was just a trick of light and shadows.

Other examples of false sightings in space include a rat on Mars, an alien Bio Base and — most recently — a strange flash of light captured by NASA's Curiosity rover.

Rosetta arrived at Comet 67P/C-G (as it is known) after a 10-year and 4-billion-mile chase (6.4 billion km) across the solar system. The probe has already begun snapping stunning close-up photos of the comet.

Rosetta is the first spacecraft ever to orbit a comet and will spend the next year and a half studying Comet 67P/C-G in extraordinary detail. In November, Rosetta is expected to drop its lander Philae onto the comet's surface for an even closer look.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.