Hundreds of black ‘spiders’ spotted in mysterious ‘Incan city’ on Mars in new satellite photos


Arachnophobes need not fear: a new image of Martian “spiders” from the European Space Agency (ESA) actually shows seasonal eruptions of carbon dioxide on the red planet.

The dark, spindly formations were spotted in a formation known as the Inca City in March‘southern polar region. Images taken by ESA’s Mars Express orbiter and the ExoMars Trace Gas orbiter show dark clusters of dots that appear to have tiny legs, much like baby spiders huddled together.

The formations are actually gas channels measuring between 45 meters and 1 kilometer in diameter. They occur when the weather begins to warm in the Southern Hemisphere during the Martian spring, melting layers of carbon dioxide ice. The heat causes the lowest layers of ice to turn into gas or sublimate.

A digital model of the formation of the Inca City of Mars made from recent data from the high-resolution stereo camera of the Mars Express satellite. Traces of black “spiders”, actually the product of dusty gas geysers, are visible throughout the image. (Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

As the gas expands and rises, it explodes out of the overlying layers of ice, carrying the dark dust from the solid surface with it. This dust shoots up from the ice before pouring onto the top layer, creating the spider-like cracked pattern seen here. In some places, geysers erupt through ice up to 1 m thick, depending on ESA.

Related: Huge single object left 2 billion craters on Mars, scientists find

Hundreds of black “spiders” spotted in 2020 by ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. These formations are the remnants of dusty gas geysers that erupt through the surface ice of the Red Planet in spring. (Image credit: ESA/TGO/CaSSIS)

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