The ‘hole’ on Mars making headlines could be crucial to Red Planet exploration

A mysterious pit on the flank of an ancient volcano on Mars has generated excitement recently because of what it could reveal beneath the surface of the Red Planet. Here’s what that means.

First things first, the pit, which is only a few meters across, was actually imaged on Aug. 15, 2022 by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which was about 159 miles (256 kilometers) above the Martian surface at the time. This hole in the ground is also not alone. It’s one of many seen on the flanks of a trio of large volcanoes in the Tharsis region of Mars. This particular pit is found on a lava flow on the extinct volcano Arsia Mons, and appears to be a vertical shaft. That raises a question: Is it just a narrow pit, or does it lead to a much larger and remarkable cavern? Or, could it perhaps be a really deep lava tube formed underground long ago when the volcano was still active? 

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