Are Martians obsessive Star Trek fans? How infuriating would it be if Mars turned out to be inhabited by a civilized society that was absolutely ruined by the re-runs TV shows we've been blasting out in all directions? Perhaps a friendly debate over who was the best captain of the USS Enterprise (it's Picard, and yeah that's probably the most common answer but it also happens to be correct) would be a good icebreaker when we make first contact. These are things we need to start thinking about, as apparently there's a giant Starfleet logo on the surface of Mars. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) recently photographed a geological structure on the surface of Mars that looks nearly identical to the insignia worn by the members of Starfleet through every iteration of "Star Trek."
The formation was spotted on a sand dune in the volcanic plain of Hellas Plantia on Mars. Ross Beyer of the SETI Institute tweeted the picture and said:
"Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo."
Yep. It sure does. But Beyer says that it's only a coincidence that it looks like the Starfleet logo. Meaning that it wasn't drawn by Martians who's only reprieve from their boring, boring world is our TV shows. According to Beyer, the structure is a result of the complex interactions between sand, lava, and wind. He writes:
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.
Although, the coincidences do go a little bit further. In the pilot episode of the latest Star Trek series, "Star Trek: Discovery," Captain Philippa Georgiou and Commander Michael Burnham are stranded on Mars and draw a giant Starfleet logo in the sand to signal their location.
In any case, it's just about the best pop-culture reference we could ask to find on an alien planet. In a world that seems to be heading towards a future more reminiscent of "Blade Runner" than the optimism and spirit of exploration in "Star Trek," perhaps we need a heavenly reminder to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Also, it could just be Q messing with us.