NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) took a snapshot of the portion of the planet’s South Pole and discovered something that left the scientists scratching their heads.
While Mars’ entire surface is covered with various indentations, craters, and depressions, there seems to be a pit in the midst of the’’Swiss Cheese Terrain’’ of melting frozen carbon dioxide that is substantially deeper than the average pits found on the planet. This has made scientists left with many questions, with the most important being: what made it?
Obviously, there is a lot of things that can make holes, pits and depressions on Mars’ surface, including meteorites, lava tubes, floods, volcanic activity and plenty more. However, this circular depression’s origin is a mystery that is yet to be resolved.
Seeing that it’s summer on Mars’ South Pole, the Sun is just low enough to make the subtle features visible for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to capture. It is very clear that there is a substantial amount of ice at the bottom of the crater.
All around the circular depression there are frozen layers of carbon dioxide which has empty circles in it where the dry ice has sublimated thanks to the heat from the Sun. This is what the astronomers call a ‘’Swiss Cheese Terrain’’.
Given that the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) took the photo of the circular depression on the Mars’ surface it is clear that it is not a small hole by any means. It is estimated that it is hundreds of meters wide which begs the question – how was it created? Was it an accidental thing or a purposefully designed feature?
Obviously, it is still hard to have answers to these questions, but as the data starts to collect we can probably expect NASA to make the big reveal about the origin of this mystery hole.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been in orbit since 2006, which means that it has been sending detailed, high resolution images from the planet for eleven years. Within the first two years in orbit, it has already completed all of its primary goals along with other mission extensions and the hardworking orbiter is still dutifully doing its job. There is no doubt we will be receiving a lot more mysterious images from Mars in the future.