What Lies Beneath

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What would make a great home for a giant Martian ant lion? I’d have to say this pit, imaged by the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter!

Earlier this year a crater was spotted with a dark spot at its center. When the team took a closer look with the high-resolution camera they saw that the spot is actually a 35-meter (115-foot) -wide skylight that opens into an underground cavern. The cavern is most likely a section of an empty lava tube, leftovers from ancient Martian volcanic activity.

Detail of the skylight

Based on the shadows it’s estimated that the pit is about 20 meters (65 feet) deep. But, how much of that is material piled up on the floor of the cavern from the surrounding crater itself? And what caused the crater to form in the first place? These are questions that remain to be answered.

The HiRISE image itself is false-color, the hues denoting the texture and composition of the surface material and not the actual color as would be seen in visible light.

As far as a giant Martian ant lion… well, unless there are some giant Martian ants around for it to snack on, I’m going to assume there’s nobody home!

Image credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona.