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The spiders of Mars!


Spider patterns on Mars

Spidery patterns in the terrain near Mars' south pole, caused by carbon dioxide frost sublimating (going straight from a solid to a gas).

NO, THEY’RE NOT SOME KIND OF fearsome alien creature come to destroy the Earth. These spiders are intriguing erosional features formed by seasonal frost near the poles of Mars.

The images above and below—taken with the HiRISE instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft—show the erosional features in fine detail.

During the Martian winter, high latitudes (near the pole) build up deposits of carbon dioxide frost that can be a metre thick.

In the spring these sublimate and turn back into gas. The gas sublimating at the bottom of the frost can move the underlying dust and even erode channels in it.

These channels form a variety of structures—examples like those at this site have been nicknamed “spiders” because many channels converge, giving a many-armed, spidery appearance.

Spider patterns on Mars

Another view of the "spiders" on Mars.

Adapted from information issued by Colin Dundas, HiRISE / MRO / University of Arizona.

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