A characteristic of Mars that looks like a very hairy spider has probably been caused by the convergence of hundreds or even thousands of tornadoes.
Credit: ESA / Roscosmos / CaSSIS, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
David Bowie sang about his science fiction character, Ziggy Stardust, who was playing with Mars spiders, and it now turns out that there is a "spider" on Mars.
An image captured by an orbiter from the European Space Agency (ESA) recently showed what appears to be a very hairy blue spider, extending its "legs" across the Martian landscape.
But in reality, the so-called spider is a sprawling pattern left on a ridge by a frenzy of dust devils, when hundreds, if not thousands, of swirling tornadoes have formed in the region, ESA officials said. yesterday (14 March). [Seeing Things on Mars: A History of Martian Illusions]
The ExoMars ESA-Roscosmos trace gas observer captured the image on February 8 in the Mars region of Terra Sabaea, using the surface color and stereo imaging system (CaSSIS). ) of the spacecraft. The blue runs represent parts of the ridge that have been scraped and stripped by tornado winds. Although the actual color of the material exposed by the tornadoes is dark red, it appears in blue in the composite color image; This technique improves the contrast of surface characteristics, according to the statement.
It is unclear why so many dust devils (or tornadoes of dust) converged along the ridge, although the mountains in the region may affect the flow of air masses and contribute to the formation of tornadoes , said representatives of ESA.
The ExoMars orbiter, launched in 2016, also captured a photo of NASA's InSight lander on March 2, while he was hammering his "mole" instrument into the ground to sample the NASA's InSight lander. inside of Mars. In the picture, InSight appears in the form of a small white spot inside a darker rock circle, burned by the lander's rockets upon touchdown. . Nearby are the thermal shield and the InSight parachute, which were ejected during his descent.
Other photos published yesterday by ESA show remarkably well preserved impact craters; stratified deposits near the polar ice cap south of Mars; and 3D views of craters, dunes and outcrops.
"All the images we share today represent some of the best in recent months," said Nicolas Thomas, senior researcher at CaSSIS at the University of Bern in Switzerland, in a statement.
"The hairy spider" is not the first misleading picture of a Martian character. In 1976, NASA's Viking 1 satellite captured the image of a mountain on Mars that looked suspiciously like a human face, and the Curiosity rover captured images apparently showing a rat, a lizard and even a spoon turned out to be rocks of strange shape.
Originally published on Science live.