September 22, 2007

Mars' Hidden Subsurface Entrances

The Mars orbiter is now fully operational after a software glitch sent it into safe mode on September 14, 2007. It is expected to resume its search for caves like the ones reported back in April that were discovered using Odyssey's thermal imaging system (THERMIS).

Caves are likely hotspots for martian microbial life. They show up as "warm spots" on thermal imaging because they are warmer during cold periods and cooler during hot periods and offer a much more stable temperature to sustain life. Caves are important discoveries on Mars because:

1.) Caves can be used as future shelter for humans.
2.) Microbial life may be located in caves beneath the surface.
3.) If life is absent, the fossil record preserved in the cave wall will tell us if life ever existed, and if so, what happened to it.

For these reasons researchers hope that caves will be more thoroughly investigated by future missions.

A very important discovery was the potential cave system located near Arisa Mons, a massive martian volcano. The caves have been dubbed the Seven Sisters, named Dena, Chloe, Wendy, Annie, Abbey, Nikki and Jeanne, after the loved ones of researchers who located them.