Entrance to Inner Mars; HiRISE Camera Spots Massive Lava Tube on the Red Planet

The HiRISE camera onboard the MRO spacecraft has snapped an image of a massive lava tube measuring approximately 50 meters in diameter, and leading inside Mars, as it flew over the Arsia Mons region. 

Mars is our best bet for alien life. Although we’ve read news about traces of alien organisms found within the Venusian atmosphere, we are far from confirming that discovery. Moreover, getting to Venus is much harder than getting to Mars.

Venus’s surface is highly toxic, and not even our most resistant spacecraft can withstand the pressure and toxicity on the surface. On Mars, however, things are different.

As you read this, several rovers, landers, and orbiters are studying the red planet in an effort to help us better understand not only the red planet but our solar system in general. Along the way, we are looking for signs of alien life, and according to our best guesses, Mars is one of the best places where alien life will likely be found, either past life or present life.

However, if it exists, life on Mars will probably be located beneath the surface where the chances for survival are higher than on the arid, barren, and “toxic” surface.

That’s why we must explore the surface of Mars, but also look for potential areas that lead towards the subsurface of the red planet, and the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) can help us do just that.

Inner Mars

An image of the massive lava tube measuring approximately fifty meters in diameter photographed by the MRO as it flew over the Arsia Mons region on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona.
An image of the massive lava tube measuring approximately fifty meters in diameter photographed by the MRO as it flew over the Arsia Mons region on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona.

According to reports from the official HiRISE website (University of Arizona), the MRO has discovered a huge Martian lava tube, about 50 meters in diameter,  in images sent by the high-resolution HiRISE camera aboard the Orbiter.

Types of lava can be squeezed out from under the older rock and lifted it up so it can continue to flow underground. In this way, large underground rivers of lava can form, and when the volcano stops erupting, the lava emerges from these underground tubes.

These empty underground tubes are common but much smaller on Earth and can cut through giant volcanoes on Mars, just as we see in the above image where the gigantic lava tube exists on the flanks of Arsia Mons.

As revealed by Shane Vryne from HiRISE’s website, in the image snapped by the MRO, the ceiling of the lava tube collapsed in one place and made this crater.

According to our best estimates, the entrance is about 50 meters wide, which means that the underground tube is likely to be at least this big as well –which makes it much larger than similar caves on Earth. It also means that there could be a massive subterranean labyrinth on Mars waiting to be explored.

It could also provide a perfect hiding place for life to exist, which is why we need to explore such areas on Mars as soon as possible.

HiRISE was unable to see the inside of the well because the interior was darkened at the time of the orbit.

Arsia Mons is the southernmost of the three volcanoes that make up the community known as Tharsis Montes, near the equator of the planet Mars.

It measures 430 kilometers in diameter and rises 16 kilometers above the Martian surface plane (more than 9 kilometers above its surrounding plains). The caldera at its summit is more than 115 kilometers wide.

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