Space is a strange and wonderful thing. While we have come to learn so much about space in the last 60 years there is still so much we don’t know. Mars is the flavor of the last number of decades as we continue to see the orange planet as full of potential. It is the only planet that we have sent a rover to and one that we are increasingly interested in. A new photograph is getting more scientists excited about the potential of Mars.
The photo at first glance doesn’t look like much. A simple crater with an opening in the top and a shadow inside. The picture was taken by the HiRISE camera on the robotic Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. While orbiting the planet it has taken some incredible photos that are both stunning and surprising as they continue to show more about Mars than we ever knew before.
Yet this one photo has sparked more excitement than any other. This is because if there is a chance of life on Mars this may be the best place to look. The surface of Mars is not an easy place for life to grow. It is a tough environment where living things would not survive for long and so it is no surprise that we have found no life on the planet yet. For years scientists have said that if we have a chance at finding life it will be under the ground or in a protected space.
The photo appears to have captured what may be a perfect place for life to grow. The photo shows a standard crater but the small shadow inside shows that some form of cavern exists inside. This cavern may have provided shelter from the harsh environments outside. This shelter may have been the catalyst required to create some form of life on Mars. The cavern is estimated to be 115 feet wide and 66 deep, although it could go deeper under the surface.
This pit is exactly what scientists would have hoped to have found from the Mars Orbiter. While some may have been hoping to catch a Martian man riding a strange beast across the mountain plains, that was never really possible. This is the most exciting development we could have hoped for. Until now people have said that Mars is simply too harsh of a planet to sustain life, but now we have clear evidence of a place on Mars that is less harsh than the rest.
Whether this crater has existed long enough to allow the strange miracle of life to take place or whether the inside of this crater is sufficient enough to provide life at all remains to be seen. However, it is now clear that if we have another instrument like the Mars Rover we know exactly where to send it. The robot could be sent to this crater to take a sample of the soil, to take pictures, to analyze the biodiversity in the area, if there is any, and to report back its findings.
Scientists are already estimated that there may be enough chemical elements underground to produce life. While they are only expecting to find some sponge-like lifeforms it is a start. We could be on the brink of discovering life somewhere other than Earth. This incredible discovery would surely be the start of the new age of science.
If finding life on Mars isn’t exciting enough the cavern presents numerous other opportunities as well. Even if life is not found there will likely be plenty more information to gather from inside the cavern that not only provides more information on the past of Mars but may hold the keys to understanding the composition of the planet in greater detail.