A Case for Using Ground-Based Thermal Inertia Measurements to Detect Martian Caves

Author(s): G. Groemer, L. Foresta, T. Turetschek, C. Bothe, A. Boyd, A. Dinkelaker, M. Dissertori, D. Fasching, M. Fischer, D. Föger, N. Frischauf, L. Fritsch, H. Fuchs, C. Gautsch, S. Gerard, L. Goetzloff, I. Gołębiowska, P. Gorur, P. Groll, C. Haider, O. Haider, E. Hauth, S. Hauth, S. Hettrich, W. Jais, N. Jones, K. Taj-Eddine, A. Karl, T. Kauerhoff, M.S.Khan, A. Kjeldsen, J. Klauck, A. Losiak, M. Luger, T. Luger, U. Luger, J. McArthur, L. Moser, J. Neuner, C. Orgel, G.G. Ori, R. Paternesi, J. Peschier, I. Pfeil, S. Prock, J. Radinger, C. Ragonig, B. Ramirez, W. Ramo, M. Rampey, A. Sams, E. Sams, S. Sams, O. Sandu, A. Sans, P. Sansone, D. Scheer, D. Schildhammer, Q. Scornet, N. Sejkora, A. Soucek, A. Stadler, F. Stummer, W. Stumptner, M. Taraba, R. Tlustos, E. Toferer, E. Winter, K. Zanella-Kux

Journal: Astrobiology

Volume: 14

Page(s): 431-437

Year: 2014

DOI Number: 10.1089/ast.2013.1063

Link: Link to publication


Martian caves are regarded as one of the most interesting locations in which to search for life on the planet. Data obtained during the MARS2013 expedition at Hamar Laghdad Ridge in the Tafilalt region of Morocco indicate that even small cavities can display thermal behavior that is characteristic for caves. For example, temperature in a cavity equaled 14°C±0.1°C before sunrise, which was higher than the temperature of the ambient air (10°C±0.1°C) and proximate rocks (9°C±0.1°C) at the same time. Within 30 min after sunrise, when the temperature of surrounding rocks corresponded to 15°C, this thermal relationship reversed. Measurements were conducted under simulated spaceflight conditions, including near-real-time interpretation of data that were acquired in a complex flight planning environment. We conclude that using ground-based thermal contrast measurements, in 7–14 μm band before and after sunset, is an effective method for Mars astronauts to identify caves, possibly superior to usage of space-based or ground-penetrating data. Key Words: Mars—Caves—Thermal inertia—Detection—Human exploration. Astrobiology 14, 431–437.