Mars News: ‘Spiders’ Appear In Starburst Pattern

Mars News: ‘Spiders’ Appear In Starburst Pattern
Artist’s impression of Mars four billion years ago European Southern Observatory / Flickr CC BY 2.0

An image of spider markings that appeared on the red planet was captured by NASA.


The close-up image was captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. These are deep troughs that appear like a starburst pattern. An area of one kilometer that had these markings was spotted by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE).

“In the region where the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this image, we see troughs that form a starburst pattern,” NASA said. “In other areas these radial troughs have been referred to as spiders, simply because of their shape.”

The image – captured at 4:56 p.m. local Mars time – shows the surface of Mars illuminated from the western direction with a solar angle of 78 degrees; the sun, therefore, is about 12 degrees above the horizon. NASA explained the cause for the formation of these troughs in a statement, saying they are “believed to be formed by gas flowing beneath the seasonal ice to openings where the gas escapes, carrying along dust from the surface below. The dust falls to the surface of the ice in fan-shaped deposits.”

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Meanwhile, British astronaut Tim Peake will conduct his first ever spacewalk Friday. The spacewalk will require him, along with NASA flight engineer Tim Kopra, to venture outside the International Space Station to replace a failed power unit. As a result of the malfunctioned power unit, one of the eight power channels of the space station has been affected. Peake shared a selfie on social media, captioning it, “final suit check prior to Friday’s EVA (extra-vehicular activity) — feels just great.” In an official announcement, NASA said this is the 192nd maintenance mission for the space station but it is only the third venture into space for Kopra and the first for Peake.

Peake will be traveling in excess of 60 meters out of the space station airlock to fix the voltage regulator that on Earth would weigh 90 kilograms. Paul Dum, lead spacewalk officer, said, “It’s about as far at the space station as you can go from the airlock, which certainly raises the pucker factor for the crew.”