Spiders from Mars? Orbiter spots something ‘hairy’ on the surface of Red Planet

Rob Waugh
It was captured by an ESA orbiter (ESA)

A Mars orbiter has caught a glimpse of something that looks like something straight out of David Bowie’s imagination – a spider from Mars.

But while it isn’t actually a giant arachnid, the ‘hairy’ pattern is shaped by powerful extraterrestrial forces – tornadoes to be precise.

The image was captured in the Terra Sabaea region of Mars, west of Augakuh Vallis by the ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter, and shows the crest of a ridge torn by Martian tornadoes.

It’s a colour composite, where features that are bluer than the average colour of Mars are highlighted bright blue – in reality, the streaks would be dark red.

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The ESA says, ‘ Dust devils churn up the surface material, exposing fresher material below.

‘This mysterious pattern sits on the crest of a ridge, and is thought to be the result of dust devil activity – essentially the convergence of hundreds or maybe even thousands of smaller martian tornadoes.

‘The reason why the streaks are so concentrated on the ridges is not known at present, but a relationship to orographic lift as masses of carbon dioxide air flow uphill and converge with other air masses is one possibility.’

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