ESA reveals the sign of spiders on Mars

The European Space Agency (ESA) has revealed the spider-shaped patterns scattered across the southern polar region of Mars.

ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft captured the spider-shaped patterns from Mars orbit
ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft captured the spider-shaped patterns from Mars orbit. (Image credit: ESA/TGO/CaSSIS)

These spider-shaped patterns are not seen throughout the year on Mars. These are the seasonal features created by carbon dioxide ice. 

There are two kinds of ice seen on Mars polar regions. 

Firstly, the water ice, by which Mars polar caps are primarily composed. When water ice gets warm, it melts into liquid.

Secondly, the carbon dioxide ice (also called dry ice), which deposited over the polar cap during the dark winter months.

ESA's Mars Express spacecraft captured the spider-shaped patterns from Mars orbit
ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft captured the spider-shaped patterns from Mars orbit. (Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

When spring comes after winter, this carbon dioxide ice gets warm in sunlight and directly converts into gas from solid ice.

When this carbon dioxide gas bursts and releases itself in the Martian atmosphere, it breaks the overlying water ice slabs. 

As a result, we see the dark blotches of the material located below the carbon dioxide ice.

According to the ESA, each of these black spots covers an area of 45 meters to 1 km. From the satellite, it looks like the spider is hiding underneath.

ESA’s two satellites, the Mars Express orbiter and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, captured the above images.

The Mars Express spacecraft has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2003, and the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2016. 

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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