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Field of Fans
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Field of Fans

December 21, 2007

At the very beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere on Mars the ground is covered with a seasonal layer of carbon dioxide ice. In this image there are two lanes of undisturbed ice bordered by two lanes peppered with fans of dark dust.

When we zoom in to the image, the fans are seen to be pointed in the same direction, dust carried along by the prevailing wind. The fans seem to emanate from spider-like features.

The spider arms are channels carved in the surface, blanketed by the seasonl carbon dioxide ice. The seasonal ice, warmed from below, evaporates and the gas is carried along the channels. Wherever a weak spot is found the gas vents to the top of the seasonal ice, carrying along dust from below.

The anaglyph of this spider shows that these channels are deep, deepening and widening as they converge. Spiders like this are often draped over the local topography and often channels get larger as they go uphill. This is consistent with a gas eroding the channels.