13:03 GMT24 November 2020
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    A NASA probe orbiting Mars has revealed the existence of a confusing message in a sand dune close to the Red Planet's north pole.

    Strange patterns in the Martian surface which resemble Morse code have been identified by NASA scientists, who have even tried to interpret the message in the sand.

    The dots and dashes were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which used its HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera to photograph the surface.

    The camera operates in visible wavelengths, the same as human eyes, but has a telescopic lens. 

    Specialists from the HiRISE laboratory explained that this "code" was formed in a dune field just south of the planet's north pole. 

    Message from the Red Planet, as seen by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
    © NASA . JPL/University of Arizona
    Message from the Red Planet, as seen by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

    The unique topography of Mars often leads to similar formations but in this case the peculiar patterns were formed because of a circular depression, which is probably an old and infilled impact crater. 

    This has limited the amount of sand available for dune formation, and influenced local winds. 

    The long 'dashes' are linear dunes believed to be formed by bi-directional winds, traveling at right angles to the dune and funneling material into a linear shape.

    The short 'dots' are mounds of sand called "barchanoid dunes," which are made when there is some interruption to the process of forming linear dunes.

    NASA scientists have even had a go at decoding the message, and NASA planetary scientist Veronica Bray revealed to technology blog Gizmodo that the Mars code says:

    NEE NED ZB 6TNN DEIBEDH SIEFI EBEEE SSIEI ESEE SEEE!!

    The possibility of life on the Red Planet is a hot topic among scientists, who believe it may harbor life below its surface, or have been home to an archaic form of life billions of years ago. 

    There are currently five exploratory spacecraft orbiting Mars, which orbits the Sun approximately 225 million km from Earth. Additionally, there are two rovers on its surface.

    Recently Alfred McEwen, Professor of planetary geology at the University of Arizona, theorized that life exists in pockets of water several kilometers below the Martian surface, in a microbial form similar to that which exists in the deep ice-bound lakes of Antarctica.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, reconnaissance, extraterrestrial life, NASA, Mars
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