Saturday, March 17, 2007
'Seven Sister' Caves Found Near Mars Volcano Arsia Mons
The US Geological Survey (USGS) have found seven underground caves on Mars and given names Dena, Chloë, Wendy, Annie, Abbey, Nikki and Jeanne near the Arsia Mons volcano region near the equator of the Red Planet.
Using THEMIS (Mars Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System), researcher Glen Cushing from the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona seven possible openings. The caves have been probed using thermal infrared imaging, which shows that their temperature is pretty constant at any time of day. In daylight, the spots are cooler than the rest of the surface, but not as cool as shadowed areas, and at night the spots are warmer than their surroundings.
Vertical "skylight" entrances to caves below the surface have been spotted from the Mars satellite image data. The caves may be the only natural structures capable of protecting primitive life forms from micrometeoroids, UV radiation, solar flares and high energy particles that bombard the planet's surface, according to the BBC.
"They don't have the rims or sprays of surrounding dust that impact craters have. The data suggest that the holes are at least 80 metres deep,” Nature quoted Cushing as saying at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in League City, Texas. MSNBC Science Editor Alan Boyle provides more journalistic analysis along with Nature's Katharine Sanderson.