back to article Boffins baffled by mysterious Martian crater

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 …

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Alien

Or maybe....

...it was Dave 'Cinzano Bianco' Lister.

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Coffee/keyboard

Thumbs up

10 million points to you sir, for making me laugh with an excellent red dwarf reference!

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Coat

See if you can find any chicken bones...

...it might be a Quagaar warship.

(mine's the one with the bazookoid in the pocket)

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Crash?

No, more likely they had problems with their Newtonian reaction drive (aka 'rocket') and decided to take of using warp drive, making a bit of a mess of the planet's surface...

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Alien

Looks

decidedly whale shaped to me.

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Joke

And another thing...

The large crater above could have been made by a bowl of petunias.

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There are two large craters above....

That's why the bowl of petunias said "Not again".

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Hmm...

I suppose... It even looks slightly oily ... from the blubber I suspect

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Welcome

Nah...

... I reckon it's the alien equivalent of the ratboys in comically pimped vauxhall novas pulling doughnuts in tesco's carpark.

I for one welcome our new chavvy be-tentacled overlords.

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Right. So that's PARIS Mk2's mission brief sorted then.

That is all.

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Coat

I know who knows...

No doubt this will be about the 20th comment saying "Where's AManFromMars when you need him?".

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I dunno...

...but I think you can see his house from up here.

Probably easier to make out in the full-res photo, though.

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amfm

He can´t post, had his ride wrecked...

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Alert

Inter-Planetary Cover-up?

The X-37B goes missing for two weeks then this gets reported? Too much of a coincidence for me.

Quite obviously, the staff at the Reg are trying to cover up the existence of the DARPA sponsored, CIA black budget financed, militarized version of PARIS which got a wee bit off course and created the embarrassing crater. Those titanium straw tubes, Kevlar stealth covering and Maverick missile warheads pack quite a whallop when moving at Mach 15.

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Alien

Looks to me

Like Noah's ark.

Well, an interplanetary version anyway. Maybe the Golgafrincham B Ark hit the wrong planet after all?

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Alien

Or it was the ship at Milliways

which looked like a fish, moved like a fish, but steered like a cow (the one that crashed into the third moon of Jaglan Beta).

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It's obvious innit

It's the footprint of God.

A mono-pedal God who only took one small step (well, half) before buggering off again

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Pirate

so

it was one small step for God, one giant leap for Godkind ?

Or perhaps it was a God-sized game of planetary hopscotch. I can't imagine he really likes to spend all eternity being stuffy and God-like ALL the time. At some point, dropping little buggers into the big pit has gotta get boring as hell. Yeah, it's funny the first few million times to hear them screaming and begging as you let go, but after a while, well, perhaps a change of scenery is just the thing.

whassat burning smell?

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...a particularly radical version of atmospheric braking...

Apparently this is known in the trade as 'lithobraking'.

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Got any of that Plutonian Nyborg left?

Ah, just one bag...it's in the transmitter compartment.

You think that's enough?

Nah, go for broke.

Good thinking man.

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Alien

Yes Lewis..

.. keep taking the pills.

That's quite a large spaceship to leave a crater 380 km long by 140 km wide.

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Terminator

Maybe...

... That was not a moon...

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Yep...

About as big as the asteroid they used for stealthing the beast.

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Re : That's quite a large spaceship

Depends on how big the aliens are !

I, for one, welcome our Brodbingagian ? Brobdingnagian ??( Oh bugger - big-endian) overlords

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Think of how big that metor had to have been.

I know Mars doesn't have a very thick atmosphere, but do hit the surface at that angle, the impactor must have spent an awful lot of time traveling through it at some pretty high velocities. The initial size of that hunk of rock must have been pretty impressive to survive the atmospheric friction for as long as would have been required before making that scrape.

Even more so if it bounced off the planet. Maybe one of those two kidney stones Mars calls moons is responsible? Or depending on the composition of those two hunks of rock, maybe they are /both/ responsible, having originally been chunks of the initial impactor?

Might explain how they got there in the first place. The prevailing theory is "captured asteroid," but the reasonably rapidly decaying orbits would seem to indicate that it's possible they could be the result of an impact like this. Skipped off the surface, broke up, and didn't quite make a fully stable orbit.

Considering the unknowns surrounding the origin of those two (I refuse to call them “moons”) it’s as plausible a theory as any…

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Very, very interesting theory..

..however, wouldn't both chunks be spinning like ricocheted bullets after an impact like that? Phobos' day is little longer than that of earth's.

Still, very very interesting theory.

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M Gale

Phobos and Deimos are kidney stones. They are also covered in craters. However long ago this happened, those little buggers have been up there a while. If my theory is right, then when the original impactor broke up while exiting the atmosphere, the two bits that became Phobos and Deimos were most likely at least semi-liquid. They cooled, and proceeded to spend umpteen years getting pummelled by space debris.

What space debris though? Probably the same sort of crud that hits Mars itself, but also likely some leftover bits from their own creation. (A goodly chunk of which probably fell back to Mars.) Why couldn't either or both of these bodies have been slapped around some by space debris long enough to retard their spinning to about what we are seeing now? Seems to me anything big enough to have made that particular scar on mars would have been large enough to break up into a Phobos/Deimos pair a couple of times over. Where’d the rest of it go?

I’ll bet that a good chunk of (probably very Iridium-rich) materiel is left buried under that impact scar. Another goodly chunk in various smaller and more directly vertical impact events all over the planet. Still, one look at the actual SHAPES of both of Mars’ companions (especially Phobos) tells me something happened to them (post-impact-event) that would have made for an EXCELLENT movie special effect.

I’d bet the data to outright confirm or deny this theory already exists. The mapping of impact sites on Mars, Phobos and Deimos should tell us if there was an unusual number of them happening within the same, oh…million years or so? Chart the age of it all; see if there are any glaringly obvious correlations, and if so…you’ve probably got an impactor-based creation event. Albeit one significantly less cataclysmic for the parent body than the Terra/Luna system. (IIRC wasn’t the impactor in the Big Whack supposed to be >1/4 the extant proto-terra’s mass? Yowza!)

I would love to have a NASA protoexogeology nerd hear my theory and either reject it outright or go “hmmmm.” Finding out you are (definitively) wrong is almost as much fun as finding out you are (definitively) right! Hurrah for science and <3 learning.

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This crater looks a lot younger than Mars' moons

It's floor is fairly smooth with only a few new craters in it. Phobos and Deimos are a lot more cratered than that, I think they've been up there a lot longer than this crater has existed.

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@Rattus Rattus

Possibly...or they orbited for a while through a cloud of debris left over from their own creation and got the **** pummelled out of them.

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Glancing blow impact craters

Trevor, the Kaidun meteorite, from Russia, has been postulated as an actual chunk of Phobos, owing to the odd mix of materials it is made up of.

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"small"

Is that some kind of term that means "not small at all"?

The dimensions (from the ESA page) are as follows

"this well-defined depression extends approximately 380 km by 140 km in a NNE–SSW direction. It has a rim that rises up to 1800 m above the surrounding plains, while the floor of the depression lies 400–600 m below the surroundings."

Given it's 52,300 square kilometres in area (2.56 Wa in Vulture Central measurements), small is not the word I'd use.

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It's not the size, it's the energy

My money's on Steve Ballmer, in the board room, with a chair (assisted by the latest iPod vs Zune sales figures).

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Zune

I thoguht they stopped selling those. No? Hmm...

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Interstellar insurance claim

"it came out of nowhere guv"

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Alien

WE are the men from Mars

I still believe that H. Beam Piper was right...

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Stop

And the pyramids?

When are they going to point Mars Express at the pyramids and other weird stuff that NASA found years ago but has never bothered to investigate further?

Some of that stuff (pics readily available on the web) seems so obviously un-natural that it beggars belief that nobody has bothered to look again. Or maybe they have and they just haven't told us.

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The pyramids, the face etc.

Probably look less exciting when the light's not coming from just the right angle.

Still, agreed, I'd like to see more pictures.

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they did this for the face

but at high res it is just a rock

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Joke

Wrong shape...

...for a "glancing blow". It would get narrower all the way along the length resembling more of a comet's tail, not start smaller, get larger, then smaller.

I was going to make a comment about it being a god sized phallic shape, but realised ... oh no! God's a woman!

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Anonymous Coward

Wrong shape... → #

Which way was it coming in to land?

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Joke

God Grief!!

Looks the perfect shape and colour of my underpants when I find them (usually at a mate's house) after Friday's Runny Ruby Murry, on Saturday morning..

It's simply an alien 'trouser-track'. Maybe they don't use undies, them green monsters.

Mother instigated into me the coherence between clean underpants and road traffic accidents. i.e. "Make sure you wear clean undies, in case you have a car accident" (You've all heard it)

So, following mum's advice, I always shit my pants before I go shopping. Works. Never been hit by a car once in 54 years.

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WTF?

Ugh!

You, sir, are a disgusting human being.

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Friends are electroc

Of the two contentious propositions in this article, I would quite frankly prefer to believe that this particular object was created by aliens, then that all the other craters were caused by meteoric impacts. Isn't it stretching belief a bit to have to think either that all the impactors arrived virtually perpendicular to the surface or that the only impactors to cause non-circular craters are those arriving at a grazing incidence? (If answering, don't wave computer models).

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Wonder if it might be an atmosphere thingy.

On Earth, the atmosphere's fairly dense, and I think the discovered ancient craters seem to be pretty circular - even the big dinosaur-eliminating jobbies included ones (Mexico, Russia). Possibly the atmosphere 'levels' them out a bit as they come in. Mars atmosphere is a lot less than here, so maybe it doesn't straighten out the flight-path anywhere near.

Having said that, the moon, with no atmosphere to speak of seems to have been hit 'from on the oche' quite a few times...

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Happy

A title is requried

*waves computer models*

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Black Helicopters

this is creepy...

if you look at the high res jpg here: http://download.esa.int/images/marsexpress/471-20103007-2216-2238-6-ft-01-OrcusPatera_H1.jpg (1.5meg)

you can see some lines (they look like small, straight valleys) that are intersected by this crater.

fair enough, maybe mars had liquid water and rivers at some point.

but if you look at the one just about reference 1, it actually goes through an impact crater - so the crater was there before this line / valley thing formed.

Whereas all the others are intersected by the craters along their paths.

how odd......

wait a second, isn't the moon shrinking, causing similar ridges to form on its surface?

this would be a great time to sell plots of land on mars - they will only get smaller!

anyone else played mass effect?

black helicopters because the universe is NOT expanding

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Where is

Samantha Carter when you need her? She'd suss it....

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Material?

Was it made of paper, perchance??? PARIS Test-flight that you're keeping 'under (paper) wraps'?

I think the other Paris could make a bigger impact, however. Wasn't the famous video also green? Not that I ever saw it, just a mate in the pub told me...Honest, Guv...

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Elysium Planitias?

Obviously connected to the Utopia Planitia Shipyards mentioned in Star Trek. An accident with anti-matter possibly.

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Anonymous Coward

TITLE

Or dilithium crystals...

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