When you see Mars from afar, it’s easy to assume it’s just a red rock with no line, but when you take a closer look at the surface, you can find some pretty interesting things. One of the most bizarre landmarks that scientists have spotted on the surface of the planet are the so-called “spiders” that appear as dark spots surrounded by red disturbances on Martian soil. They are a total mystery to researchers, and since nothing like them appears on Earth, no one could explain how they came to be. That is, so far.
New study published in the journal Scientific reports explains how experimentation has led to the ability of researchers to replicate unusual spider-like traits right here on Earth. It turned out that spiders are probably a byproduct of the change of season on Mars. When the temperature changes, it can dramatically affect the surface and everything inside it, and in this case it means CO2.
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The science team began experimenting with things already known to exist on Mars, including CO2. The atmosphere of Mars is largely made up of CO2 and, when temperatures drop sharply during the Martian winter, that CO2 becomes cold enough to turn to ice. Any CO2 ice on the surface is eventually heated when the season changes again and converted from solid to gas through a process known as sublimation.
When testing CO2 sublimation in a “Mars simulation chamber” that included a variety of granular substrates, the team found that dry ice that converts to gas generates a similar pattern
“The research team drilled holes in the centers of the ice blocks with CO2 and hung them with a claw similar to those found in arcades, above granular troughs of different grain sizes. They lowered the pressure inside the vacuum chamber to the Martian atmospheric pressure (6 bar), and then they placed a block of CO2 ice on the surface with a system of levers “, it is explained in the press release attached to the article.
“In any case, after the block was lifted, the spider gnawed at the gas coming out. Spider patterns were more branched when smaller grain sizes were used, and less branched when larger grain sizes were used. This is the first set of empirical evidence for this existing surface process. “
Thus, if the surface is much warmer than necessary for sublimation to occur, a gas leak under the dry ice will basically cut the surface material, forming spider-like shapes. But how would the surface reach that temperature if the seasonal changes were so gradual? Researchers speculate that sunlight can actually pass through ice and warm the ground beneath it.
It all makes sense, but without actually seeing how the process takes place on the surface, researchers cannot be 100% sure that their theories are correct.
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