News of the WeekPlanetary Science

'Spiders' Channel Mars Polar Ice Cap

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Science  15 Sep 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5486, pp. 1853-1854
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5486.1853a

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REYKJAVIK, ICELAND-- Scientists studying the latest high-resolution photos of the martian south polar ice cap think they may have found additional clues to its ebb and flow. These hints of the planet's bizarre atmosphere come from a new class of dramatic-looking terrain features whose dark, multilimbed, vaguely radial designs have earned them the moniker "black spiders," and another group of dusky, spreading features called "dark fans." At a recent gathering here of Mars researchers, a planetary scientist proposed that the spiders might be subsurface gas channels, visible through an unusually transparent section of the martian ice.