Your eyes aren’t mistaking you. There really is a sign declaring Glenelg, Scotland, as twinning with Glenelg, Mars, that welcomes you as you enter the village.
The village of Glenelg is a picturesque coastal settlement in the Scottish Highlands well worth a visit. Sadly, it’s also where the Knoydart Highland Clearances began, which saw tenants forcibly removed from their homes and dispatched to the colonies for rich landlords to replace them with sheep. Due to these unfortunate Scots being displaced throughout the world, several Glenelgs have popped up throughout the solar system.
One is in Maryland, in the United States. There’s another in Australia and yet another in Canada’s Northwest Territories. And, most interestingly, there’s also one on Mars.
The Canadian Glenelg has ancient rocks thought to be of a similar age to rocks found in the Gale Crater area of Mars. In 2012, NASA scientists named this martian area Glenelg to make it easier for themselves and the public to understand what they were referring to when discussing the Curiosity rover’s landing site. They also chose the name because it’s a palindrome, and the Curiosity was destined to visit the area twice.
As the various Glenelgs have their roots with the Scottish Glenelg, the Scottish community decided to have a special “twinning” ceremony to mark its ties to the martian Glenelg. Locals celebrated with a ceilidh (gathering) and had a special guest, former NASA astronaut Bonnie Dunbar whose grandparents were from Scotland, in attendance.
The Curiosity rover later came across a rock, which scientists named Jake Matijevic, after a rover engineer who passed away, on its way back to the martian Glenelg, After many analytical studies, the igneous rock was a classified as the type known as mugearite, which was named after Mugeary on the Isle of Skye, only 25 miles from Glenelg, where such rocks were first found and recorded. What a cosmic coincidence!