NASA details ‘spiders’ on Mars with insane new photo

Federico Mansilla
Julio 15, 2018

But the eerie looking dark shapes are not quite what they seem to be - and no, they are not David Bowie's backing band.

The image shows a carbon ice cap that enveloped the region during the winter as the sun returns in the spring. Scientists call this araneiform terrain.

NASA said that the active seasonal process involved does not occur on Earth, but like dry ice on our planet, the carbon dioxide ice on Mars sublimates when it warms, causing it to change from solid to gas and become trapped below the surface. The marks were captured by the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in mid-May at Mars' south pole during the planet's winter season.

"But these aren't actual spiders".

"The south polar terrain on Mars contains landforms unlike any that we see on Earth, so much that a new vocabulary is required to describe them", the space agency pointed out.

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As the carbon dioxide gas expands, the mounting pressure eventually cracks through the surface, creating the veiny "spider" formations on Mars, which are formally known as "araneiform topography". The gas is then released into the atmosphere, but the darker dust may get deposited around the vent or winds may transport it to produce streaks.

"The loss of the sublimated carbon dioxide leaves behind these spider-like features etched into the surface", NASA explained on its website. It was launched in 2005.

The NASA spacecraft has already served more than double its intended lifetime and the space agency announced in February it hopes to keep the space probe running past the mid-2020s.

The MRO photographs are taken by the HiRISE imager which is operated by the University of Arizona.

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