Mystery Patterns Photographed on the Surface of Mars

The image was taken on 8 February 2019 and is centered at 26.36ºN/56.96ºE.

North is up.

It’s not aliens, it’s a massive ‘hairy blue spider’… well, sort of.

This extraordinary image was taken in the Terra Sabaea region of Mars by the Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) aboard the ExoMars trace gas orbiter from the European Space Agency.

This mysterious pattern is located on the crest of a ridge and is believed to be the result of Martian dust devil activity, essentially the convergence of hundreds or even thousands of small Martian tornadoes, reports the European Space Agency in a statemnt accompanying the image.

As explained by the space agency, the image is a color-composite representation where features that are bluer compared to the average color of Mars are shown in bright blue hues.

Image Credit: ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS,CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.
Image Credit: ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

In actual color, the streaks would appear dark red.

Dust devils churn up the surface material, exposing fresher material below.

The reason why the streaks are so concentrated on the ridges is not known at present, but a relationship to orographic lift as masses of carbon dioxide air flow uphill and converge with other air masses is one possibility.

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