Strange Honeycomb Patterns on Mars Revealed in new HiRISE Photographs

Of all the planets in the solar system, none is as mysterious and interesting to humans as Mars. This is not only because it is relatively close to Earth, but because the red planet resembles Earth in more ways than one.

If there is life elsewhere in the solar system, Mars is most definitely a candidate. To find out whether this is the case, we are studying and exploring Mars with various surface missions and satellites. HiRISE, for example, is of paramount importance to studying the red planet from a distance.

HiRISE stands for High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, and it is a crucial part of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been studying and exploring Mars since 2006.

HiRISE has provided us with thousands of breathtaking photographs of the red planet, advancing our understanding of Mars and proving how much it resembles our home world.

Honeycomb patterns on Mars

A photograph acquired by HiRISE in 2013 showing polygonal structures on the surface of Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona.
A photograph acquired by HiRISE in 2013 showing polygonal structures on the surface of Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona.

As seen from orbit, the Martian landscape resembles a honeycomb lace or spider’s web. However, the unusual polygon-shaped features do not result from Martian bees or spiders; rather, they stem from a continuous cycle of water ice and carbon dioxide, researchers have suggested.

Many of these curious, odd, polygonal shapes have been spied on by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

It is believed that both carbon dioxide and water – in the form of dry ice – are contributing to this extraordinary high-latitude geometry. Surface polygons are created by freeze-thawed water ice.

As it warms in the spring, sublimating dry ice beneath the ground creates even more erosion around polygon edges, carving out channels. In addition, seasonal contractions and expansions of near-surface ice produce polygonal structures over many years. Researchers reveal that these blue fan-shaped features indicate even more spring activity in the region covered in them.

In scientists’ view, the surface of the translucent dry ice develops vents where gas can escape.

The polygonal patterns in the soil on Mars help scientists understand the recent and historical distributions of ice in the shallow subsurface, as well as clues about climate conditions.

Curiously, these odd shapes are not exclusive to our neighboring planet. For example, polar regions on Earth exhibit polygonal shapes similar to these shapes, and New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto in 2015 revealed similar shapes on the dwarf planet.

HiRISE — a Martian rock star

In contrast to previous camera technologies, the HiRISE camera is designed to see the surface features of Mars in more detail than ever before.

Using HiRISE, astronauts have gained more insight into the fresh craters of Mars, revealing alluvial fans, viscous flow features, and pitted regions of materials containing massive breccia clasts.

An image of active Dunes in Wirtz Crater. This image was taken by the HiRISE instrument on board on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.
An image of active Dunes in Wirtz Crater. This image was taken by the HiRISE instrument on board on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

As a result, the age of Martian features can be analyzed, and landing sites for future Mars rovers can be identified.

The Martian surface can be observed in far greater detail than has previously been possible from orbit. The data will enable a better understanding of channel networks and valleys on Mars, volcanic landforms, possible former lakes and oceans, sand dunes such as Hagal and Nili Patera, and other surface landforms that exist on the surface of Mars.


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Source: Curiosmos

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