Ziggy was playing guitarand UK scientists played with a large piece of dry ice to try to figure out what was behind the strange alien models known asspiders on Mars. “
These models, visible on satellite images at the South Pole of the Red Planet, are not real spiders, of course; but the branched, black shapes carved into the Martian surface seem ominous enough that researchers have called them “araneforms” (meaning “arachnids”) after discovering the shapes more than two decades ago.
Up to 3,300 feet (1 kilometer) in diameter, the giant shapes look like nothing The Earth. But in a new study published March 1
“This study presents the first set of empirical evidence for a surface process thought to alter the polar landscape. Mars, “lead author of the study Lauren McCown, a planetary scientist from the Open University of England, said in a statement. “Experiments show directly that the models of spiders we observe on Mars from orbit can be carved by directly converting dry ice from solid to gas.”
The Martian atmosphere contains more than 95% carbon dioxide (CO2), according to NASA, and so much of the ice and frost that forms around the planet’s poles in winter is also made of CO2. IN 2003 survey, researchers have suggested that spiders on Mars may form in the spring when sunlight penetrates the translucent layer of CO2 ice and warms the earth below. This heating causes the ice to sublimate from its base, creating pressure under the ice until it finally cracks. The trapped gas leaks through the cracks in a gushing plume, leaving behind the zigzag patterns of spider legs visible on Mars today, the team suggested.
Until recently, scientists had no way to test this hypothesis on Earth, where atmospheric conditions are significantly different. But in the new study, researchers made a small piece of Mars here on Earth using a device called the Open University Simulation Chamber on Mars. The team placed sediment grains of various sizes inside the chamber, then used a system that resembled a nail machine that you would see in a local arcade to hang a block of dry ice over the grains. The team set up the camera to mimic the weather on Mars, then slowly lowered the block of dry ice onto the nipples.
The experiments proved that the hypothesis of spider sublimation is valid. Regardless of the size of the sedimentary grains, the dry ice always sublimes on contact with them and the leaking gas is pushed upwards, digging spider-like cracks along the way. According to the researchers, the spider’s legs branch more when the grains are finer and less when the grains are coarser.
Although not conclusive, these experiments provide the first physical evidence showing how spiders on Mars may have formed. Isn’t that sublime.
Originally published in Live Science.