Updated 20 May, 2013, 6:25 pm IST
Volcanic tunnels on Mars offer hope for life
| by Anuradha Shetty |
The red planet has been elusive to mankind for centuries now, and even as he continues to produce marvels upon marvels in technology; life sustenance on the planet has still remained a mystery. Now, a report by Daily Mail indicates that a network of tunnels that have formed of a result of underground lava flows and now non-existent volcanoes may be capable of sustaining life, hence rekindling hope that the red planet may be habitable, after all. The report further cites that the presence of what it refers to as 'distinctive 'pit chains'' on the surface of the red planet surrounding the Tharsus Montes volcanoes, only indicates that the tunnels and depressions on the surface collapsed after the underground lava flows stopped. Researchers, now are of the opinion that the other tunnels of the surface are likely to have had running water ages ago also are the locations, wherein they could look for microbial life on the planet, and which could, as such indicate the planet's ability to sustain life.
Is there life?
For those fairly clueless about the importance of having spotted these tunnels and cavities on the surface of the planet, it should be first understood that unlike the Earth, the atmosphere on Mars is thin. Such an atmospheric condition, means that Mars has been blasted with 250 times more radiation than Earth; making living conditions on the planet quite impossible. In such a scenario, a tunnel or a cavity associated with pit-chains can shield a microbial life from such harsh conditions, particular if there was water, thereby making life sustenance possible. In fact, even those astronauts who've attempted to step on the red planet have found the surface radiation to be roughly 250 times higher than that found on the Earth. In such situations, too, spotting caves, along with the pit-chains may in all likelihood prove to be a saviour for these astronauts as a protection from the radiation.
The images, taken on June 22, 2011 by the European Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter revealed the presence of a series of 'pit-chains' on the flanks of one of the largest volcanoes in the Solar System. The images also cover Tractus Catena in the Arcadia quadrangle, part of the vast Tharsis region on Mars. According to the report, this region alone houses, among other two, one of the largest volcanoes in the Solar System by area and volume - collectively known as Tharsis Montes.
Back in November, last year, NASA launched their ambitious Curiosity Mars rover placed atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Curiosity was scheduled to be in flight for 9 months from the date of its launch, before it is to begin work on the surface of the red planet.
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