Whenever odd geographical features are pointed out in the Martian landscape, it’s always the same ol’ usual suspects (you know who) who pore over images of the strange-looking objects and cry ancient aliens or government conspiracy. The latest “strange thing on Mars” mystery, however, isn’t accompanied by a ten-minute long, rambling YouTube video with ominous background music. In fact, this one comes straight from the horse’s mouth – the NASA horse, that is.
In a press release, NASA released an image of an odd-looking circular feature near Mars’ icy South Pole photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE instrument (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment). Usually, any circular depression or raised area is believed to be an impact crater. This particular feature, however, has NASA scientists baffled due to its unusual appearance.
The feature doesn’t quite match the prototypical image of an impact crater, but NASA theorizes that some type of deformation could have been caused by geological forces which alter the icy polar landscape:
[…] craters in icy terrain are modified by processes that flatten and change them in such a manner that it is hard to say for sure if it had an impact origin.
Naturally, because the space agency can’t definitively identify the feature, some sources have run wild with speculation.