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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Martian Chronicles: A hole and a whole lot more

Scientists have made a discovery on Mars that may have implications on the search for life there. It also may prove to be a first step toward colonization, a possibility that has captivated science fiction writers going back to Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of a black spot that researchers think may be an entrance to a cave. Depending on how deep it goes, such a cavern could be an auspicious environment to harbor some form of life. It also might make an amenable place to set up camp for explorers.

Here's a bit of the story from Space.com, plus the link to the full text:

Deep Hole Found on Mars
By Leonard David

A very dark spot on Mars could be an entrance to a deep hole or cavern, according to scientists studying imagery taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The geological oddity measures some 330 feet (100 meters) across and is located on an otherwise bright dusty lava plain to the northeast of Arsia Mons, one of the four giant Tharsis volcanoes on the red planet.

The hole might be the sort of place that could support life or serve as a habitat for future astronauts, researchers speculated.

Read the full article
Beyond the hole, you can look at a whole series of amazingly detailed images taken by the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, which are now available on a web site hosted by the University of Arizona. Check them out here and you'll see why writers have fantasized about the mysteries lying within our red planetary neighbor.
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