An image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has revealed intriguing honeycomb-textured features in a region of the Red Planet.
The image was taken by the HiRISE camera on the MRO, and it’s looking towards the northwestern Hellas Planitia, one of the largest and most ancient impact basins on Mars.
“Honeycombs” here is a reference to rectangular ridges that are unique to the Red Planet. They’ve been spotted before, but they’re highlighted again in this image.
We’re actually quite zoomed in here, at 50 centimeters (20 inches) per pixel. But if you look at the zoomed out image below, you can clearly see the different honeycomb-like sections. They measure about 5 to 10 kilometers (3 to 6 miles) across.
“Scientists have been debating how these honeycombed features are created, theorizing from glacial events, lake formation, volcanic activity, and tectonic activity, to wind erosion,” said NASA.
It’s thought the feature may be in part formed by wind erosion, as the walls of the cells look a bit like ripples of sand. The bedrock has also been exposed in the floor and walls of the cells, which can be the result of volcanic activity.
The cells are notable in another way too, namely that they have a lack of impact craters. This suggests they have been recently reshaped by one of the processes mentioned above.
Honeycombs were first spotted on Mars back in 1972, leading to numerous conspiracy theories about Martian cities. Now that we can see them more closely, of course, we can tell that they are natural features. But they’re still fascinating, all the same.