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Curiosity and a Martian sinkhole

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day today is particularly interesting — a hole in the surface of Mars. We’ve seen craters, plains, the tracings of flowing water, etc. But this hole appears to be an opening into a subsurface cavern of some kind, much like an earthly sinkhole over an old mineshaft.

The hole was discovered in images of the slopes of Mars’ Pavonis Mons volcano sent from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Such holes have been seen before and have led to speculation by scientists that protected subterranean caverns might be the best place to find any existing Martian lifeforms.

Image Credit: NASA, JPL, U. Arizona

Curiosity, our next Mars exploration vehicle, is due to land on the planet’s surface August 6. Or at least, try to land. This video from NASA explains the incredible complexity of the landing:


Curiosity is five times as large as either of the existing Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and carries more than ten times the mass of scientific instruments present on the older vehicles. This video and its extensive accompanying notes on YouTube explain how Curiosity differs from previous Mars explorers:

What sets Curiosity apart from other Mars Rovers?

(Sorry. Couldn’t get this one embedded.)


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