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Mysterious Patterns on Mars: The Truth About Strange 'Martian Spiders'

Oct 26, 2016 04:39 AM EDT
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Are there really spiders on Mars? At least patterns that look like it are.

Few years ago, NASA has spotted "Martian spiders," seasonal slabs of frozen carbon dioxide and erosional features. Since then, they have been searching for more of it for further studies. Just recently, they have sought for the help of 10,000 citizen scientists to take a deeper look at these strange patterns, Yahoo reports.

According to NASA, for the particular project tagged as "Planet Four: Terrains," the volunteers reviewed images from the Context Camera (CTX) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Afterwhich, the same is done with High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the probe. From the images, they were able to spot 20 more of these spiders in the Martian south pole.

"It's heartwarming to see so many citizens of planet Earth donate their time to help study Mars," said HiRISE Deputy Principal Investigator Candice Hansen, of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona in a statement. "Thanks to the discovery power of so many people, we're using HiRISE to take images of places we might not have studied without this assistance."

How are these Martian spiders formed? According to IFL Science, previous studies suggest that when ice sheets melt from the bottom up, CO2 gas will be trapped and pressure will build up. The pressure will crack the ice into strange shapes resembling spider legs.

The trapped carbon dioxide gas that carves the spiders in the ground also breaks through the thawing ice sheet. It lofts dust and dirt that local winds then sculpt into hundreds of thousands of dark fans that are observed from orbit," Meg Schwamb, a planetary scientist from the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, said in the statement. "For the past decade, [the orbiter's instrument] HiRISE has been monitoring this process on other parts of the south pole."

Read: NASA Image Captures Perplexing Icy 'Spider' On Pluto

Space.com notes that the citizen scientists have found Martian spiders in places that previously unthought of such as in areas where the surface is composed of material that was ejected from impact craters.

The results of the citizen science project were presented on Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences and the European Planetary Science Congress, in Pasadena, California.

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