The Pit-Chains Of Mars

April 6th, 2012 | researchmaterial

Now that’s a goddamn headline.  THE PIT-CHAINS OF MARS.  I live for that kind of line.

The latest images released from ESA’s Mars Express reveal a series of ‘pit-chains’ on the flanks of one of the largest volcanoes in the Solar System. Depending on their origin, they might be tempting targets in the search for microbial life on the Red Planet.

So what’s a pit-chain?  And can I put my eventual Martian palace in one?

…a series of circular depressions that formed along fracture points in the martian crust.

Pit-chains can have a volcanic origin…. (and) can also be caused by strains in the Martian crust, which translates into a series of parallel elongated depressions known as grabens, in which pits can also form.  But the most dramatic scenario involves groundwater… Some of Earth’s most famous examples are the network of ‘cenotes’ on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. These deep natural pits form when the surface limestone rocks collapse, exposing the groundwater underneath.

Yes yes yes get to the good bit.

If there are any cave-like structures associated with the pits, microorganisms could have survived, protected from the harsh surface environment.

Great.  Martian Pit Flu awaits.  That’s not the good bit.  (I know I’m supposed to be excited by any form of life on Mars.  But, really, we know it’s going to be Martian Pit Flu.  And then it’ll spread to complex biologies and become the Martian Bird Flu.  And I’ll catch it.  So to hell with that.)

Mars landers have measured surface radiation around 250 times higher than that found on the Earth, and more than double that experienced by astronauts on board the International Space Station. Any caves associated with the pit-chains may in future provide a possible refuge for astronauts from the harsh surface radiation.

There you go.  Martian Pit-Chain Cave Compounds.  That’s the stuff.  The Pleasure Pits of Tharsis.  Hurling the inferior out on to the radioactive red desert to die.

What?


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  1. You can find Warren on Twitter: @warrenellis