Another Mars mystery: What's that circular 'island' in its lava flows?

Scientists are studying a fascinating image of an unusual circular formation on Mars and trying to work out how it got there.

Mars mystery island
At least we know it's not Gilligan's Island. NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Mars has a history of offering up unusual formations for humans to marvel at, speculate about and scratch their heads over. We've famously had the face on Mars (Elvis, is that you?) and more recently a jelly doughnut-shaped rock and an object vaguely shaped like a human femur bone. The latest find is a formation that looks a bit like a deformed waffle.

An image captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter looked down onto what NASA describes as an "enigmatic landform." The 1.2-mile wide feature is circular and sits in the Athabasca region of Mars, home to some of the planet's youngest lava flows. The smooth areas around it are those lava flows.

Overzealous alien theorists might see the photo as evidence of intelligent breakfast on Mars, but NASA scientists are offering up a more probable explanation: "Perhaps lava has intruded underneath this mound and pushed it up from beneath. It looks as if material is missing from the mound, so it is also possible that there was a significant amount of ice in the mound that was driven out by the heat of the lava."

NASA goes on to note that there are many features like this one in the region that are still puzzling to scientists. The search for a complete explanation is still ongoing.

As we wait for the scientists to study this image and others of the surrounding area, I would like to offer up my own whacked-out, completely fictional theory: If the "Face on Mars" really is Elvis, then this circular formation could be proof that Elvis is hungry. After all, a Google search for "Elvis waffles" returns 407,000 results, so there must be some sort of correlation there, right?

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