Astronomy Picture of the Day

A Hole in Mars
Image Credit: NASA, JPL, U. Arizona

Explanation: What created this unusual hole in Mars? The hole was discovered by chance in 2011 on images of the dusty slopes of Mars’ Pavonis Mons volcano taken by the HiRISEinstrument aboard the robotic Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter currently circling Mars. The hole, shown in representative color, appears to be an opening to an underground cavern, partly illuminated on the image right. Analysis of this and follow-up images revealed the opening to be about 35 meters across, while the interior shadow angle indicates that the underlying cavern is roughly 20 meters deep. Why there is a circular crater surrounding this hole remains a topic of speculation, as is the full extent of the underlying cavern. Holes such as this are of particular interest because their interior caves are relatively protected from the harsh surface of Mars, making them relatively good candidates to contain Martian life. These pits are therefore prime targets for possible future spacecraft, robots, and even human interplanetary explorers.

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
NASA Web Privacy Policy and Important Notices
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.