Giant Spiders on Mars!

Eek, spiders! All right, so it’s not actually little green arachnids we’re talking about here, but they are definitely spidery features. Called araneiform terrain, these clusters of radially-branching cracks in Mars’ south polar surface are the result of the progressing spring season, when warmer temperatures thaw subsurface CO2 ice.

As dry ice below the surface warms it can sublimate rapidly and burst through the frozen ground above, creating long cracks. If the material below is dark it can be carried upwards by the escaping gas, staining the surface.

Each dark splotch is around 100 meters wide.

This image was acquired by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on September 26, from a distance of 262 km (163.8 miles). See the full-size scan here, and check out more recent HiRISE images in the November PDS release here.

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

15 Replies to “Giant Spiders on Mars!”

  1. “…staining the surface…If the material below is dark” or blowing away the accumulated dust? Probably a combination of both? I wonder how stable the surface around these areas are.. i.e. not good for walking across? What is the resolution of this imagery – how big are the ‘spiders’?

    1. Well, if you know the angular resolution of the camera, then you just need to figure out what width that is at a 262 km distance. Then divide that number of meters by 512 pixels (the width of the full-size scan linked to in the last para of the article) to get your meters per pixel resolution.

      1. Thanks Jason.. very interesting. Mars sure is a strange place, Eh? Some day, I hope someone gets a chance to investigate those features up close!

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      2. Yeah! Where is that guy? Lessee.. Mick is in his 70’s now, Bowie his 60’s? Tell you what…. if they keep rockin, so will I!

      3. Vampires? The recent fascination on the boob, cinema and web concerning ‘vampires’, is an interesting social phenom(?) but hardly worth more than a passing glance for me…

      4. It was meant more as a quip per said rockers and their ilk’s odd shared palour of morbidity as if they were being kept alive (as Keith Richards is) by transfusing themselves with new blood now and again.

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