Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Are These Caves On Mars?

Date:
April 2, 2007
Source:
Northern Arizona University
Summary:
Applying techniques used to scope out caves on Earth to probe the possibility of caves on Mars is paying off. Scientists propose that photos from the Mars Odyssey mission reveal football-field size holes that could be entrances to caves.

Researchers propose these images of seven black spots near a massive Martian volcano may actually be caves rather than impact craters. The images were taken from the Thermal Emission Imaging System aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.
Credit: NASA

Applying techniques used to scope out caves on Earth to probe the possibility of caves on Mars is paying off.

NAU researchers Glen Cushing and Jut Wynne, working at the U.S. Geological Survey, propose that photos from the Mars Odyssey mission reveal football-field size holes that could be entrances to caves.

"If there is life on Mars, there is a good chance you'd find it in caves," said Wynne, an NAU graduate student in biological sciences and project leader for the USGS Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program.

He said the possible discovery could lead to more focused Mars explorations.

Martian caves are considered the "best potential havens for life" because they would be protected from surface radiation and other factors, he said.

"The Martian surface is an extremely harsh environment, so the significance of caves is in their protective nature," said Cushing, a graduate teaching assistant in NAU's Department of Physics and Astronomy, who was the first to spot the black areas on the photographs. "Caves on Mars could become habitats for future explorers, or could be the only structures that preserve evidence of past or present microbial life."

Cushing and Wynne, along with Tim Titus, an astrophysicist with USGS, and Phil Christensen, the chief scientist for the NASA imaging instrument and a researcher from Arizona State University, recently submitted their findings in a research paper at the 38th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

"We're suggesting that the seven black spots are skylights to areas where the surface may have collapsed into a chamber below," Wynne said. "Preserved evidence of past life on Mars might only be found in caves, and such discovery would be of unparalleled significance."

The claim for caves is based on an analysis of photographs from the Thermal Emission Imaging System aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, which revealed seven black spots near a massive Martian volcano, Arsia Mons. Although this area of Mars is known for geological occurrences, the researchers said the dark spots do not look like impact craters because they don't have raised rims or blast patterns.

"This is a very interesting discovery with positive implications," said Nadine Barlow, an associate professor in physics and astronomy at NAU and expert on Martian impact craters. "Caves on Mars could be good places for long-term ice accumulation and that would make them ideal locations to look for life on Mars as well as valuable reservoirs for water to support future human exploration of the planet."

The Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program's overall objective is to develop techniques for systemically detecting caves on Earth in the thermal infrared and then applying these techniques to searching for caves on Mars, Wynne explained.

The team reported possible caverns ranging from 330 to 825 feet wide and 425 feet deep They've been named after loved ones of the researchers: Dena, Chloe, Wendy, Annie, Abbey, Nikki and Jeanne.

Christensen said the first avenue for further observations could be provided by NASA's latest Red Planet probe, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

"The spacecraft's high-resolution camera could take a closer look at the seven sisters—including sidelong glances that might show whether the features open up into wider chambers beneath," Christensen said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northern Arizona University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Northern Arizona University. "Are These Caves On Mars?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070402153116.htm>.
Northern Arizona University. (2007, April 2). Are These Caves On Mars?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070402153116.htm
Northern Arizona University. "Are These Caves On Mars?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070402153116.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins