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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Sep > Sep 22

NASA Orbiter Finds Possible Cave Skylights On Mars

From: Don Ledger <dledger.nul>
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 17:08:29 -0300
Archived: Sat, 22 Sep 2007 09:47:40 -0400
Subject: NASA Orbiter Finds Possible Cave Skylights On Mars 

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From: NASA News <hqnews.nul>
To: NASA News <hqnews.nul>
Date: Fri 21 Sep 2007 14:30:00 EDT
Subject: NASA Orbiter Finds Possible Cave Skylights on Mars

Sept. 21, 2007

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726
dwayne.c.brown.nul

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-6278
guy.webster.nul

RELEASE: 07-207

NASA ORBITER FINDS POSSIBLE CAVE SKYLIGHTS ON MARS

PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has discovered
entrances to seven possible caves on the slopes of a Martian
volcano. The find is fueling interest in potential underground
habitats and sparking searches for caverns elsewhere on the Red
Planet.

Very dark, nearly circular features ranging in diameter from
about 328 to 820 feet puzzled researchers who found them in
images taken by NASA's Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor
orbiters. Using Mars Odyssey's infrared camera to check the
daytime and nighttime temperatures of the circles, scientists
concluded that they could be windows into underground spaces.

Evidence that the holes may be openings to cavernous spaces
comes from the temperature differences detected from infrared
images taken in the afternoon and in the pre-dawn morning. From
day to night, temperatures of the holes change only about one-
third as much as the change in temperature of surrounding ground
surface.

"They are cooler than the surrounding surface in the day and
warmer at night," said Glen Cushing of the U.S. Geological
Survey's Astrogeology Team and of Northern Arizona University,
Flagstaff, Ariz. "Their thermal behavior is not as steady as
large caves on Earth that often maintain a fairly constant
temperature, but it is consistent with these being deep holes in
the ground."

A report of the discovery of the possible cave skylights by
Cushing and his co-authors was published online recently by the
journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"Whether these are just deep vertical shafts or openings into
spacious caverns, they are entries to the subsurface of Mars,"
said co-author Tim Titus of the U.S. Geological Survey in
Flagstaff. "Somewhere on Mars, caves might provide a protected
niche for past or current life, or shelter for humans in the
future."

The discovered holes, dubbed "Seven Sisters," are at some of the
highest altitudes on the planet, on a volcano named Arsia Mons
near Mars' tallest mountain.

"These are at such extreme altitude, they are poor candidates
either for use as human habitation or for having microbial
life," Cushing said. "Even if life has ever existed on Mars, it
may not have migrated to this height."

The new report proposes that the deep holes on Arsia Mons
probably formed as underground stresses around the volcano
caused spreading and faults that opened spaces beneath the
surface. Some of the holes are in line with strings of bowl-
shaped pits where surface material has apparently collapsed to
fill the gap created by a linear fault.

The observations have prompted researchers using Mars Odyssey
and NASA's newer Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to examine the
Seven Sisters. The goal is to find other openings to underground
spaces at lower elevations that are more accessible to future
missions to Mars.


"The key to finding these was looking for temperature anomalies
at night - warm spots," said Phil Christensen of Arizona State
University, Tempe, principal investigator for the Thermal
Emission Imaging System on Mars Odyssey. That instrument
produced both visible-light and infrared images researchers used
for examining the possible caves.

"No other instrument at Mars could give the thermal information
crucial to this research," said the project scientist for Mars
Odyssey, Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, Calif. "This is a great example of the exciting
discoveries Odyssey continues to make." Mars Odyssey reached
Mars in 2001, years before any of the other spacecraft currently
examining the planet. Its predecessor, Mars Global Surveyor,
ended its mission last year.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages Mars Odyssey and Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter for the NASA Science Mission Directorate,
Washington. Arizona State University operates the Mars Odyssey's
Thermal Emission Imaging System. For additional information
about Mars Odyssey and the new findings, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/odyssey


-end-

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