NASA spots a 'spider' forming on Mars

Herman Weaver
December 25, 2016

Images sent from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft were being studied specifically the growth of the spidery feature in the red planet's terrain, from one Martian spring to another.

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory claimed to have found an explanation for how freaky spider-like features on that have been noticed repeated in the Martian dune fields have developed. "These are in sand-dune areas, so we don't know whether they will keep getting bigger or will disappear under moving sand".

As described by the lead author of the study, Ganna Portyankina of the University of Colorado, Boulder, "the current-day attrition of Martian Polar Regions by the seasonal Carbon dioxide jets, has something that is intensifying and broadening the channels consisting Mars Spiders". Scientists note that they could have at their disposal enough information to link together to eventually solve the Martian "spiders" puzzle. The formations on the surface range in size from tens of yards, up to as much as hundreds of yards across, emanating from a central pit. The new photos documenting the surface formation's growth were captured by the MRO's High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). While these channels appear to be relatively small, they may help scientists learn more about how the larger spider features form, NASA officials said.

One Martian year lasts about 1.9 Earth years. Carbon-dioxide ice, better known as "dry ice", is found in the form of sheets that cover the ground during winter in areas near both poles, including the south-polar regions with spidery terrain.

Similar grooves have previously been spotted on sand dunes near Mars' north pole; however, those features lasted no longer than a year, as surrounding sand filled them in. The primary insulation layer between the water cells and the ice cells would be a carbon dioxide gas cell layer, which would use gas from the Martian atmosphere.

Scientists have now reported new troughs near the south pole which are also at spring-fan sites. "I think the sand is what jump-starts the process of carving a channel in the ground".

"The combination of very high-resolution imaging and the mission's longevity is enabling us to investigate active processes on Mars that produce detectable changes on time spans of seasons or years".

Kevin Kempton of Langley Research Center, and Ice Home principal investigator, told Space.com that the inflatable domecile "is more than just a habitat, since what we really need is a new home on Mars", adding that "Our team is confident Ice Home is now the best solution out there for an early Mars outpost".

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