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Weird Geological Features Spied On Mars

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the probably-caramel-bubbling-up-to-the-surface dept.

Mars 99

astroengine writes "The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera carried by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted a strange geological feature that, for now, defies an obvious explanation. Found at the southern edge of Acidalia Planitia, small pits with raised edges appear to hug a long ridge. So far, mission scientists have ruled out impact craters and wind as formation processes, but have pegged the most likely cause to be glacial in nature."

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99 comments

Canals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43656737)

The canals on mars are back!

Pegged? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657103)

but have pegged the most likely cause to be glacial in nature

Bend over, boyfriend!

Re:Canals? (4, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about a year ago | (#43657583)

They look more like solifluctations [wikipedia.org] , or possibly something related to palsas [wikipedia.org] or pingos [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Canals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43658355)

Something like rimstone dams? [wikipedia.org]

Just root canals. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about a year ago | (#43660291)

Actually it's the mouth and those are the teeth. Mars is just a big orange PacMan.

Is it dead or did it just decide to hibernate until quarters were invented and sent into space? More Research Needed (tm).

See the cover. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about a year ago | (#43660309)

Also: See the covers of the Hitchhiker's Guide books for examples of similar features.

Re:Canals? (1)

plj (673710) | about a year ago | (#43680201)

Not palsas. Palsas are formed on bogs, as peat is necessary for summertime insulation. Because all vegetation (if there ever was any)—and with that all the peat—has long since left Mars, any former palsas shouldn't really leave that visible marks.

Palsa formation usually requires not just a peat bog, but also snow cover. Ice lenses are formed underneath the peat layer on spots where winter freezing occurs unusually rapidly e.g. due to a thin spot in snow cover. (Palsas have been deliberately created by plowing snow off from certain spots on a bog in wintertime.) Palsas are also relatively short-term formations; they will eventually melt when they grow so much that their sheer size will cause the isolating peat layer to crack, thus withdrawing the insulation that prevents ice lenses from melting during summertime.

Solifluctations are a more plausible explanation, and perhaps also collapsed pingos. AFAIK pingos have a much longer lifetime than palsas, and when they collapse they also leave around much more visible evidence of their former existence.

It Appears (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#43656743)

Re:It Appears (1)

mrops (927562) | about a year ago | (#43657661)

Deliberately buried!

Re:It Appears (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43658277)

it's obviously due to the caving in of depleted martian dwarf mines!

scars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43656809)

It was Cthulu rising.

Wormsign! (3, Interesting)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about a year ago | (#43656813)

Well, I'd like for it to be burrows or casings...

Didn't A.C. Clarke note this spot? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657457)

I recall that when Clarke was still alive he noted several geological features which were of personal interest to him, one of which was a "sandworm" type of feature very much like this one.

It's easier to find Clarke's off-the-cuff remark that some features look like banyan trees, but I know he wrote another piece about features other than those. Hive mind, can you please provide the citation that I cannot?

Re:Didn't A.C. Clarke note this spot? (3, Informative)

cuncator (906265) | about a year ago | (#43657925)

Archive.org to the rescue. Maybe the 9-June-2003 issue of Marsbugs (#23), page 5, "Martian Spiders"?: http://web.archive.org/web/20080725114636/http://www.lyon.edu/projects/marsbugs/volume10old.html [archive.org]

Man, just realized how long ago Spirit and Opportunity were.

Re:Didn't A.C. Clarke note this spot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43661697)

Thank you for your reply. It jogged some loose screws into place and I dug up this image linked below, which includes the following quote from Clarke:

"I'm still waiting for an explanation of that extraordinary glass worm on (Mars)... It's one of the most incredible images that's ever come from space and there have been no comments on it whatsoever!"

The coordinates provided for that region do indeed seem to place Clarke's "glass worm" in the same Acidalia Plantitia region.

http://www.enterprisemission.com/images/arthur.jpg

The Bad Astronomer, one of the Internet's most important people ever, laid this to rest quite soon thereafter, noting among other things that the human mind interprets shadows differently depending upon the orientation of the picture, and that in turn might mean that the feature in question is a dune-swept trench rather than a "glass tube." Phil Plait reserves most of his well-earned contempt for Richard Hoagland, while politely disagreeing with Clarke :

http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/misc/hoagland/glassworm.html

we don't know (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43656817)

In other news, scientists are still scared to say, "Umm... we really don't know, but we'll take a WAG at it." There's no shame in admitting you don't know. Just like we don't know for sure how old the earth is. It's ok to not know.

Re:we don't know (4, Insightful)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#43656879)

Given that the blurb on the HiRISE page say "but for now this is a mystery," I'm not seeing any evidence of scientists being scared of saying they don't know. In fact, making a high profile general public article highlighting stuff you don't understand seems like the exact opposite of the scientists being scared to point out what you don't know.

Re:we don't know (2)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year ago | (#43658883)

Agreed the recent trend is to pay a specific public representative to tell us what they are not ;p

However, We don't know, or "Don't think its that" is a perfectly valid answer =)

Re:we don't know (2)

Nadaka (224565) | about a year ago | (#43657089)

Yea, I mean, seriously 4.4 billion years old? It could just as easily be 4.5 or 4.3 billion years old.

Re:we don't know (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657245)

yeah, I know, or 6000 too...

Re:we don't know (5, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#43658059)

"Yea, I mean, seriously 4.4 billion years old? It could just as easily be 4.5 or 4.3 billion years old."

Precise Dating is everything.

Some tourists in the Chicago Museum of Natural History are marveling at the dinosaur bones. One of them asks the guard, "Can you tell me how old the dinosaur bones are?"

The guard replies, "They are 70 million, four years, and six months old."

"That's an awfully exact number," says the tourist. "How do you know their age so precisely?"

The guard answers, "Well, the dinosaur bones were 70 million years old when I started working here, and that was four and a half years ago."

Re:we don't know (4, Interesting)

dantotheman (2887483) | about a year ago | (#43657263)

Instead of "I don't know" they can just throw massive error bars on the figure. For example, the earth may be 4.5 billion years old +- 20 billion years. (Thats right, it may not be created until the future...)

Re:we don't know (1)

tessellated (265314) | about a year ago | (#43658617)

hahahah... mod parent up!!!!!

Re:we don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657331)

Obvious troll is obvious.

Re:we don't know (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#43657343)

The earth is 4,500,000,027 years old.

They told my it was 4.5 billion years old when I took high school geology back in 1986.

Fault line? (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43656831)

A fault line, with small volcanoes following along it?

Re:Fault line? (3, Informative)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about a year ago | (#43657325)

No tectonics. The planet's core is supposed to be frozen, because it it so much smaller than Earth.

Re:Fault line? (2)

Agent0013 (828350) | about a year ago | (#43657483)

Try looking at the image slide show on the very page linked in the summary. One of the craters on Mars has tectonic activity where one side of the fault has been uplifted while the other side went down. The fault goes right through the crater showing the activity happened after the impact created the crater.

Re:Fault line? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657615)

Mars clearly has faults and tectonics [europlanet.dlr.de] , but nothing like Earth.

Re:Fault line? (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#43658967)

No tectonics. The planet's core is supposed to be frozen, because it it so much smaller than Earth.

Supposed to? You mean, they are guessing?

Aliens (0)

NoSalt (801989) | about a year ago | (#43656855)

n/m

I'm not saying it's aliens (3, Funny)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about a year ago | (#43656863)

I'm not saying it's aliens, but that "ridge" was clearly a space craft docking terminal used by ancient aliens and their flying saucers.

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43656887)

OK, so it's not aliens. Then it is precisely who that is building spacecraft docking terminals on Mars?

Scientologists?

North Korea?

Give us a couple of hints, please.

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (2)

genericmk (2767843) | about a year ago | (#43656905)

George Lucas

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657091)

No blatant tie-in to milking old established franchises. An original work by George Lucas ranks below the Secret Conspiracy of Garden Gnomes on the Ockham's Razor ranking of likely causes.

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657229)

No, he means the *original* George Lucas, before he was kidnapped and replaced [youtube.com] .

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657441)

No blatant tie-in to milking old established franchises.

You didn't recognize the American Graffiti references?

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (3, Funny)

Nadaka (224565) | about a year ago | (#43657179)

James Cameron is the dude most likely to build a film studio on mars so he could produce an authentic looking set.

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | about a year ago | (#43659307)

The motherfucker is going to ruin Mars forver too?

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (1)

Tarlus (1000874) | about a year ago | (#43657807)

Nazis.

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43658733)

Nope, they're on the moon. Didn't you see the documentary?

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (1)

Tarlus (1000874) | about a year ago | (#43659385)

Oh. Thought those were whalers on the moon.

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | about a year ago | (#43657007)

You're right. I think I see the duty free shop on the right hand side of the photo.

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (1)

kryliss (72493) | about a year ago | (#43657009)

http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7kj29OPoq1qeerh6.png

SFW

Nahhhhhh..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657061)

Its obviously the remains of a railway formation that has been precision bombed in a Martian war. See how the curve turns to meet a similar line running diagonally from left to right, although the actual meeting point has been completely obliterated? And the heavier bombardment to the top left was obviously the site of the junction station!

So much for canals.....

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (1)

cytg.net (912690) | about a year ago | (#43657667)

That and "God does not build in straight lines" Defn. got an alien vibe going here ...

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (1)

saturnianjourneyman (2913341) | about a year ago | (#43658203)

It's the ruins of the Great Wall of Mars. I always heard it could be seen from space...

Re:I'm not saying it's aliens (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about a year ago | (#43663579)

So you are saying "COULD it be alIENS?"

Bah! (4, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43656891)

Those are acne scars from when Mars was much younger, you insensitive clods!

Moles (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43656893)

They're a pain to get rid of. Probably what led to the extinction of the Martians.

Sinkholes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43656915)

Sinkholes on the ridge, possibly triggering landslides? The top of the ridge where these features are looks less sharp to me. Glaciers make sense too and.... OMG, features on Mars! Life forms, aliens, CONSPIRACY!!! Nevermind. It's the Rothschilds fer shure.

Re:Sinkholes? (2)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about a year ago | (#43657405)

Maybe. Ice could melt, even evaporate due to the low vapour pressure and leave a void behind. Viola, sinkhole without groundwater.

Re:Sinkholes? (1)

mikael (484) | about a year ago | (#43657521)

Looks like the kind of ice and snow that remains on the shadow side of a mountain or ridge. The ice slowly melts, so the water gradually creates a depression on one side and deposits mud at the bottom.

Simple (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | about a year ago | (#43656917)

This is clearly a classic Giorgio Tsoukalos formation.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657027)

This made me queasy:
Tsoukalos is a 1998 graduate of Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York,... ... until I read this: ... with a bachelor's degree in sports information and communication.

Though, I'm not sure that that's any better. I really didn't think there was any degree below basket weaving (which is, at least, a useful art).

Manbearpig huts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43656927)

Could it be their base? or perhaps mars bear cavelry huts?

it's just a sandworm (1)

Jacek Poplawski (223457) | about a year ago | (#43656955)

It's a sandworm, there is probably lots of OIL on Mars and they will need to fight sandworms soon.

Certainly weird that it's GEOlogial (2)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#43656967)

It is definitely a weird or maybe even a troubling sign that there are spies on Mars and even more strangely there are EARTH features on that other planet. GEOlogical?

electrical (1)

atherophage (2481624) | about a year ago | (#43657013)

Thunderbolts (http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2005/arch05/050608craters.htm), yet again.

Welcome (-1, Offtopic)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year ago | (#43657133)

I for one welcome our new pit digging overlords.

Ok, Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657141)

Alright I'll admit it. It was me. Sorry. I didn't think anyone would mind, but sand castles get wiped out too quickly on Earth.

Re:Ok, Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657181)

Thanks for blogging your sandcastle endeavors [xkcd.com] --- you certainly do seem to have more time to work up there.

Sarnac (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657145)

Real life pit of sarlacc anyone?

worm sign.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657151)

it's just worm sign guys get over it.

Old site used to make... (1)

jeffshoaf (611794) | about a year ago | (#43657177)

Martian kimchi!

worm sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657207)

of course it's worm sign.... now where did I leave my thumper...

So ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#43657277)

.... Frank Gehry got a commission on Mars. The Martians are looking at us, trying to figure this [wikipedia.org] out.

toxic refinery? (1)

mondovoja (2914901) | about a year ago | (#43657401)

Looks like the toxic refinery to me.

Weird is subjective. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43657453)

Just because it came from Mars doesn't mean it's automatically weird.
Silly humans.

Roads (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#43657469)

Aren't they just roads?

clearly (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about a year ago | (#43657481)

It's just a response to one of the rovers drawing a giant penis. Martians are responding saying theirs is bigger.

Quaid! Start the reactor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657531)

Oxygen burp.

evidence is everywhere (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657673)

http://tinyurl.com/cu8h3st [tinyurl.com]
SFW

One word.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43657713)

Graboids

Worm Tracks (2)

chinton (151403) | about a year ago | (#43657755)

Zoom in more at the end of the trail and you'll see remains of a thumper.

Huh. (1)

Statharas (2901227) | about a year ago | (#43657901)

Aint this the reason we have a Wall-e on the red planet in the first place?

Subliminated ice boulders (2)

scorp1us (235526) | about a year ago | (#43657971)

If you figure each put was made by a chunk of ice, which laid on the surface to trap blown debris, then subliminated away, you'd get something like that. The one to the right with ones inside of on pit would have been made by a ice boulder fracturing apart then its parts sublimating away.

Eroded Fault line, (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about a year ago | (#43658029)

looks like to me.

Dinosaur foot print and tail drag... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43658409)

That looks almost exactly, but not quite unlike a Brontosaurus foot print and tail drag line...

Looks like a job for religion (1, Funny)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year ago | (#43658453)

There's a strange thing! I don't understand it. You don't understand it. Top Men don't fully understand it, or are divided on some fine point.

ERGO, [non sequiter crackpot hypothesis unsuggested by the data]! See? Finally, I have been proven right.

I bet Richard C. Hoagland knows! (2)

reboot246 (623534) | about a year ago | (#43658569)

He knows everything about Mars. And if he doesn't know, he'll make it up!

http://www.enterprisemission.com/

Re:I bet Richard C. Hoagland knows! (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about a year ago | (#43659095)

A little confused. I know who Hoagland is, and that he's nuts, but is the website a parody site? It seems over the top even for UFO nuts.

Re:I bet Richard C. Hoagland knows! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43659549)

Uh, no, that's Hoagland's site. That's always been Hoagland's site. If you've ever heard him talk for an extended period of time (e.g. you'd listened to Coast to Coast AM just about ever), you'd know how sounds just as over-the-top. I remember him going on for hours about some Geocities site he found that had an upside-down US flag, and of course always his crazy theories about JPEG artifacts.

Re:I bet Richard C. Hoagland knows! (1)

Maritz (1829006) | about a year ago | (#43690051)

Hm... Do I give Hoagland 9/10 Ickes, or give Icke 9/10 Hoaglands? Decisions...

Perhaps I should give give 'em both 9/10 Timecubes.

Damn! Martian gophers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43658755)

...always making a mess of a perfectly good landscape.

Hide your wife, hide your kids. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43659221)

Dear god, it's the sandworms!

Hot Springs (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about a year ago | (#43659259)

Circular edges are precipitate.

lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43659477)

Congratulations, You found the arsecrack of Mars.

So glad to see my Tax money put to good use finally.

No Scale (2)

1000101 (584896) | about a year ago | (#43659587)

Is it really that hard to put a scale on images? It kind of helps and typically makes the science more interesting.

They might be Kettle Holes (2)

Diamonddavej (851495) | about a year ago | (#43659829)

There are quite similar to the depressions in Moreux Crater (image PSP_010695_2225 [uahirise.org] ; 42 degrees N / 44.6 degrees E). They might be Kettle Holes, formed when a retreating ice sheet or glacial flood leaves behind huge chunks of debris rich ice that later melts (or sublimates) creating distinctive hollows in glacial sediment.

Moreux Crater Kettle Holes [arizona.edu]

I have (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43660117)

so ... many .. questions.

Aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43660627)

Duh...Aliens.

Obviously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43661299)

They are obviously jawa sand crawler tracks.

Those are balls! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43661345)

I looked through the pictures, seems to be some tits, some balls.
This close they always look like landscape. Nope, you're lookin at balls.

Ob (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#43662923)

Ulla!

Siberia (1)

RavenousRhesus (2683045) | about a year ago | (#43666471)

Go on google maps and take a gander pretty much anywhere in the northern portions of Siberia. It looks an awful lot like this.
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