There’s a giant hole on Mars and no one knows why
For as much new information as we continue to learn about Mars thanks to concerted efforts and multiple missions currently underway on the Red Planet, every once in a while scientists come across something that they just have to shrug about and admit they have no idea what it means.
During one of its 50,000 or so orbits of the planet, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) – the same craft that discovered evidence of flowing water on Mars – crossed over the southern polar region and made an odd discovery. The area is frequently covered in frozen carbon dioxide, but the region is currently experiencing its version of summer, creating the Swiss cheese look. That doesn’t, however, explain the giant hole on Mars seen above.
The hole is several hundred yards wide, and it stands alone in the area. There’s nothing else quite like it, which makes it even more confusing to researchers.
The photo was taken by one of the MRO’s six instruments, the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. Unlike many of NASA’s preferred cameras that capture images in black and white in order to run them through several optical wavelengths that can’t be seen with the naked eye, the HiRISE camera is an extremely powerful hi-res camera, similar to most cameras… just, you know, much better.
The camera also captures near-infrared wavelengths that help researchers observe mineral layers. That hasn’t helped them discover what the hole is though. There are several possible explanations, including a massive meteorite that struck the surface, or lava tube that emptied and caused the surface to collapse, but at the moment it is all just theories.
Whatever the case, chalk it up as one more mystery of the Red Planet – and one more reason to go explore it in person.