The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter or MRO, currently flying around Mars, captured images which reveal something strange. A dark spot, which most likely could be the entrance to an underground cavern or hole, was discovered on the Red Planet's surface.
Scientists feel that these underground caverns on Mars could support life if they are deep enough, which is why further study needs to be conducted on them.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Finds Deep Hole On Mars
The odd geological feature is roughly 330 feet wide and is located on the north eastern part of Arsia Mons, which is one of the four Tharsis volcanoes on Mars' surface. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment or HiRISE equipment to detect and capture the dark spot.
Scientists revealed that the deep hole on Mars is not an impact crater, due to the lack of signs of ejecta or a raised rim. They also posited that no walls were visible inside the pit, which likely suggests that the walls are quite dark and perfectly vertical, possibly an overhanging.
Researchers also predicted that the cavern was most likely quite deep as the bright natural light on Mars could not penetrate to the bottom of the chamber.
Seven similar dark spots were also noticed in April through the use of HiRISE and its Thermal Emission Imaging System. Those discoveries were made near the Red Planet's equator. Scientists believe that all the dark spots are entrances to sub-surface caves, but could the caves be hiding something more?
Could The Deep Holes On Mars' Surface Support Life?
Researchers believe that if a cave goes deep enough under the Martian surface, the temperatures could get warmer and support a stable form of liquid water. If water does exist in the sub-surface chambers, then there is a high chance that some form of life may also exist in the Mars holes.
"We can't say what's in the caves. It's just that they exist. It is hard to tell from orbit. Landers can follow up on these discoveries," Peter Smith, NASA's principal investigator for the next Mars mission Phoenix Lander, said.
Another school of thought is that even if these chambers did not house extra-terrestrial lifeforms, they would still be immensely helpful to future human explorers on the planet's surface. Mars' surface conditions are harsh, with radiation and low temperatures. However, future astronauts could seek protection from the harsh elements inside these Mars holes, when the need arises.
Images taken from orbit do not reveal any more information regarding the dark spots, but future probes landing on the Red Planet's surface may reveal more details on what the Mars holes contain and give an estimate of their depth.