A Mars probe sent by NASA captured images of a network of cracks spreading across Mars’ sand dunes. These cracks look like spiders. The pictures were taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The strange “spiders” represent some erosion-carved cracks which cover the surface of the dunes o the Red Planet. Specialists assumed that these seem to have the same structure as the Red Planet’s channel-networks named spiders.
Ganna Portyankina, the lead author of the study coming from the University of Colorado Boulder, argued that this network of cracks may develop into a larger one, creating massive “spiders” year after year. These events only occur in areas covered by sand dunes. Scientists assume that there a two sides of the story. They may either develop into bigger ones or annihilate the moving sand and disappear.
These cracks were seen close to the Martian south pole. Astronomers explain that during the southern winter, ice caps of carbon dioxide cover the sand dunes. When spring settles in, the ice melts and deep cracks appear into landforms. These fissures have different sizes. Apparently, many of these channels intersect at a central point, generating surface cracks which resemble massive spiders.
The new captures received by NASA’s scientists were taken using the help of MRO’s High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. They will permit astronomers to develop charts comparing the progress of these cracks year after year. These images were captured and gathered over a three-Martian-years time span revealing a continuously expanding network of channels on dunes.
Even though these cracks appear to be small, they might help astronomers determine how the bigger systems are formed. Based on the rate at which the present cracks have developed over the last five years, scientists predict that it would probably take more than a thousand Martian years for a spider feature to be entirely formed.
The new study was published on December 22 in the Icarus magazine. Similar features as the one from the Martian south pole were previously discovered on sand dunes close to the north pole of the Red Planet. Nevertheless, that network of cracks did not last more than a year. On the other hand, the newly formed channels have evolved year after year, determining a branching pattern.
Image source: wikipedia