Mysterious Mars Honeycomb Formations Baffle NASA

Friday, 01 December 2017 - 10:41AM
Mars
Friday, 01 December 2017 - 10:41AM
Mysterious Mars Honeycomb Formations Baffle NASA
Image credit: NASA/JPL
Before you freak out: No. There are not giant bees making space honey on Mars (that we know of).

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) recently photographed massive honeycomb-shaped landforms in the northwestern Hellas Planitia region of the planet, and while there is a lot of debate over what caused them, the general consensus is that they were formed by a natural event.

Each cell of the landforms, which were captured using MRO's Context Camera and HiRISE instrument, measures between three and six miles wide.

"With HiRISE, we see much greater detail of these cells, like sand ripples that indicate wind erosion has played some role here," NASA writes.

But exposed bedrock on the floors and walls of the cells suggest that other forces may have played a role.

"These resemble dykes, which are usually formed by volcanic activity."



Other theories being tossed around: the shapes were made by glacial events, tectonic activity, or lake formations.

Because there are no impact craters visible in the region where the patterns were spotted, scientists believe that the natural event responsible for the honeycomb occurred recently and may even still be active. 

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched back in 2005 and reached the planet in 2006 on a mission to find water.

The orbiter met its "science goals" in two years, but the mission has been extended twice since then, which has resulted in lots of bonus data and imagery, like these images of Hellas Planitia. Good on you, NASA, for getting your money's worth.

Quick sidebar: the thought of a Martian colony of insects making patterns in the sand doesn't make sense when you really think about it, but that is an untapped subgenre that someone should have made into a sci-fi film decades ago when giant monster and space movies were everywhere. To any screenwriters reading this article, you're welcome.
Science
NASA
Mars
Mysterious Mars Honeycomb Formations Baffle NASA
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