Life on Mars? Spidery Objects Spark Speculation

October 9, 2012 in Featured News, Science

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Photographs Spider-like Objects

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photographs spider-like black dots on the Martian surface that hint at an explosive geography. Source: NASA/JPL.

NASA’s recently revealed photos from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are stirring up controversy regarding the presence of life on the red planet. The photos depict spidery patches on the surface that some believe may indicate the possibility of life. These patches were first observed in 1998.

Common Sense Conspiracy reports, “Speculation is running rampant about a series of photographs taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter back in 2010 that is just now going public.  In the photos…small black objects that many think bear an uncanny resemblance to earthly spiders are seen ‘sunbathing.’  As you might imagine, the photos are sparking plenty of wild theories, some even going as far as to say that it could be microorganisms hanging out.”

Unfortunately for extraterrestrial enthusiasts, the leading theory points to the contrary. The spidery formations are likely created by geysers of carbon-dioxide, or CO2. The dark clumps are probably basaltic sand spewed from the geysers. Detailed photos reveal the formations appear to be geological, not biological, in form and origin. Whether microscopic life exists in those geyser formations is a matter of speculation.

Spidery Formations on Martian Surface

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captures a clear image of the Martian Spiders, revealing them to be depressions. Source: NASA/JPL.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained in a statement, “Spider-shaped features in the south polar region of Mars are carved by vaporizing dry ice in a dynamic seasonal process…The features are cut into the ground, not built up above the surrounding surface. Sunlight is coming from the right, from about 15 degrees above the horizon. Scientists call these features ‘araneiform,’ which means spider-like.”

Mars’ atmosphere partially freezes every winter forming polar ice caps. Every spring, these formations of ice sublimate creating pressure as the frozen carbon-dioxide escapes back into the atmosphere. The pressurized gas carves channels in the ground as it seeks release, often radially. This process is what JPL says creates the observed araneiform furrows.