Martian "spiders" may form from erosion carved troughs

There's movement on the red planet

Scientist at NASA have observed erosion carved troughs which grow and branch into what may become much larger features known as Martian "spiders".

Researchers using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have detected areas of small growth which potentially could morph into the larger formations.

Speaking about the discovery, Ganna Portyankina of the University of Colorado said: "We have seen for the first time these smaller features that survive and extend from year to year, and this is how the larger spiders get started.

"These are in sand-dune areas, so we don't know whether they will keep getting bigger or will disappear under moving sand."

These "spiders" are a uniquely Martian land form and occur due to the presence of Carbon-dioxide ice, or "dry-ice" as it is more commonly known, which does not occur naturally on earth.

The MRO began orbiting Mars in 2006 and according to Leslie Tamppari, MRO Deputy Project Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, they are learning more about the planet as time goes by and their equipment improves.

She said: "The combination of very high-resolution imaging and the mission's longevity is enabling us to investigate active processes on Mars that produce detectable changes on time spans of seasons or years. We keep getting surprises about how dynamic Mars is."