NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been orbiting the Martian terrain since March 2006, and you would think that by now we would have got every possible image of the Red Planet’s surface. Not quite, as after 11 years of orbiting our nearest neighbor, MRO has sent a snap that has everyone at NASA scratching their heads.
The orbiter has captured a massive hole on the South pole of the red planet that is definitely something different and a whole lot deeper than the other depressions and craters on the vastly pitted Martian terrain. Here’s the picture caught by the orbiter,
Mars’ South Pole is having its summer time, so the bright and shiny sun beats down low enough to make even the most subtle features stand out. As the photo shows, even the layer of ice at the bottom of the hole is visible due to the sunlight.
The picture also reveals patches of frozen carbon dioxide around the hole, and the circles in the ice are the sublimated dry ice due to the summer heat, leaving behind the “Swiss Cheese terrain.”
But none of the researchers at NASA can figure out the cause behind the peculiar hole. NASA used their MRO’s High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE camera) to capture this shot. The camera allows them to view objects on Mars larger than one meter (about 3 feet) in size from distances as far as 200 to 400 kilometers (about 125 to 250 miles).
This suggests that the pit isn’t as tiny as it seems in the picture, and at 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) per pixel, this constitutes a crater spanning hundreds of meters across. You can view the same picture in hi-res here.
Now researchers at NASA are looking to find answers as to what created such a massive crater, but without any other information, getting to the bottom of this mystery would be a tough ask.