NASA sees 'spiders' crawling across Mars landscape

James Marshall
July 16, 2018

NASA on Thursday shared an image showing many-legged shapes covering Mars' South Pole - but the "spiders" are less scary (and less musically inclined) than you might think.

The photo, was originally taken on May 13 and posted as NASA's image of the day on Thursday.

Showcased on the agency's website under the "Image of the Day" category (where all the best snapshots are displayed), the new MRO photo reveals unusual "spiders" creeping across the Martian landscape.

NASA's MRO spacecraft has captured a landscape on planet Mars that features what look like crawling spiders.

The image shows a carbon ice cap that enveloped the region during the winter as the sun returns in the spring. These features are what scientists call "araneiform terrain". NASA says these are "spider-like radiating mounds that form when carbon dioxide ice below the surface heats up and releases".

"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. When the carbon dioxide warms, it transitions from its solid state into a gas - but it appears to "melt" from the bottom up, so that gas remains trapped beneath the surface.

A jet of gas results in a dust eruption; the darker spots are dark dust that can form around the places where the gas vents. Researchers explain that the features are etched into the Red Planet's surface, leaving a fun visual imprint for researchers to examine.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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