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The pit-chains of Mars – a possible place for life?

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.

Once volcanic activity ceases, the tube empties, leaving behind a subterranean cavity. Over time, parts of the roof over the cavity may collapse, leaving circular depressions on the surface.

Pit-chains 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.

This origin is the most interesting in the context of the search for microbial life on Mars. If there are any cave-like structures associated with the pits, microorganisms could have survived, protected from the harsh surface environment.

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