Feeds

Boffins baffled by mysterious Martian crater

Likeliest explanation: Alien spacecraft prang

The next step in data security

New photos gleaned by the Mars Express spacecraft in orbit about the red planet have failed to shed any light on the origins of an "enigmatic" elongated crater named Orcus Patera.

The Martian crater Orcus Patera. Credit: ESA

Interstellar alien spaceship prang skidmark?

Orcus Patera lies on the border of Mars' Elysium and Amazonis plains, between the colossal volcanoes Elysium Mons and Olympus Mons (the latter is the largest mountain known to humankind). It was first imaged, indistinctly, by the USA's Mariner spacecraft in 1965.

Even a casual glance shows that Orcus Patera is not a common-or-garden circular impact crater of the sort which speckle most of the planets and moons of the solar system. Its flat floor and odd shape would tend to argue rather that it was formed by a volcanic eruption like some of its neighbours; but the shape of its walls, which rear 1800m above the surrounding plain, is more suggestive of a normal impact crater caused by a falling meteorite.

Boffins had hoped that recent passes overhead by the Mars Express survey craft would tell them more, perhaps offering a clue to how the strange crater appeared. But, though the new Mars Express images do offer much more detail than was available previously, it seems that there's nothing conclusive.

The ESA has this to say, in statement issued on Friday:

However, the most likely explanation is that it was made in an oblique impact, when a small body struck the surface at a very shallow angle, perhaps less than five degrees from the horizontal.

"Small object" and "very shallow angle" are enough for us. Plainly, we're talking here about an alien spaceship, its propulsion crippled, attempting a very-high-velocity glide landing through the evanescent Martian atmosphere - and cocking it up. Coming in too hot and high, the ET pilot ploughed into the Elysium Planitias at extreme speed: his ship, massive and built of advanced materials as befitting an interstellar craft, scarring the very face of Mars in its violent disintegration.

There has to be a sporting chance, in fact, that the alien ship yet lies preserved within its eternium-powered force bubbles, sealed within the now-cooled lake of molten rock it created as it crashed. That sounds like a robust justification for early human missions to Mars to us here on the Reg space desk - or anyway, plenty more excellent rovers, survey aeroplanes etc.

One theory even has it that the alien ship / meteorite which formed Orcus Patera actually ricocheted back into space after the impact, skipping off its self-generated lava surface like a stone off water. (Perhaps this was a particularly radical version of atmospheric braking employed by the more gutsy alien starship pilot of long ago.)

There are some more pics available here, courtesy of the ESA. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Stray positrons caught on ISS hint at DARK MATTER source
Landlubber scope-gazers squint to horizons and see anti-electron count surge
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.