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NASA Image Captures Perplexing Icy 'Spider' On Pluto

Apr 12, 2016 04:20 AM EDT

A recent image released by NASA shows that astronomers have found an icy "spider" on Pluto's surface.

According to, the icy "spider" is not really a spider, it is an unusual geological feature on Pluto's surface. NASA's report states that the icy "spider" is composed of six fractures that meet at a certain point, making it look like a spider. NASA also noted that the longest fracture, named Sleipnir Fossa, measures 580 kilometers while the shortest is at 100 kilometers.

The image was taken using a state-of-the-art New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) in July 2015. The fractures of various length and width have been mistaken as an icy "spider." It has enthralled NASA scientists as well as the public.

What makes the icy "spider" more interesting is that its legs appear to have red remnants from underneath Pluto's surface, which is clearly visible from the enhanced photo released by NASA.

"The pattern these fractures form is like nothing else we've seen in the Outer Solar System," said Oliver White of NASA.

Clapway said that although it is not yet entirely clear what causes these spider-like markings on Pluto, there have already been theories about it. NASA speculates that these marks are due to "focused stress" in the crust where the fractures converge.

"The curious radiating pattern of the fractures forming the 'spider' may instead be caused by a focused source of stress in the crust under the point where the fractures converge - for example, due to material welling up from under the surface," NASA wrote.

While it is still being investigated, the appearance of spider-like markings is not entirely new to NASA. Similar fractures were also discovered on different planets including Novae on Venus and the Pantheon Fossae formation on Mercury. Watch Pluto's icy "spider" fractures below.

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