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A hole in Mars: Nasa orbiter accidentally photographs open crater leading into underground cavern on surface of Red Planet

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  • Hole was discovered by chance on images of dusty slopes of Pavonis Mons volcano
  • Image taken by HiRISE instrument aboard robotic Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 02:51 EST, 19 July 2012 | UPDATED: 06:06 EST, 19 July 2012

Nasa scientists are baffled as to what - or maybe even who? - created this unusual hole on the surface of Mars.

The hole was discovered by chance on images of the dusty slopes of the Red Planet's Pavonis Mons volcano.

It appears to be an opening to an underground cavern, partly illuminated to the right of the opening.

A hole in Mars: The opening was discovered by chance on images of the dusty slopes of the Red Planet's Pavonis Mons volcano

A hole in Mars: The opening was discovered by chance on images of the dusty slopes of the Red Planet's Pavonis Mons volcano

Analysis of this and follow-up images revealed the opening to be about 35 meters across.

The interior shadow angle indicates that the underlying cavern is roughly 20 meters deep.

Why there is a circular crater surrounding this hole remains a topic of speculation, as is the full extent of the underlying cavern.

Holes such as this are of particular interest because their interior caves are relatively protected from the harsh surface of Mars, making them relatively good candidates to contain Martian life.

These pits are therefore prime targets for possible future spacecraft, robots, and even human interplanetary explorers. 

The images were taken by the HiRISE instrument aboard the robotic Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter currently circling Mars.

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