NASA recently said that a weird-looking geological feature on dwarf planet Pluto resembles a huge spider. The feature consists in six-mile-long fractures that form a pattern unique in our solar system.
NASA scientists discovered the bizarre structure while they were sifting through the images took by the agency’s New Horizons probe during its historic flyby of the alien planet on July 14, 2015.
Researchers said that all fractures converge into one point. The longest stretches over 360 miles, while the shortest is less than 60-mile-long.
The new find puzzled scientists because similar fractures on the tiny planet never intersect with one another. Researchers believe that such patterns are formed when Pluto’s ice crust expands.
But this latest spidery feature may have a different origin. The research team speculates that it may originate in a ‘source of stress’ located just below the planet’s surface where the ‘spider legs’ converge.
Similar patterns were observed on Venus and Mercury, but none of those resembles a spider. On Venus, the radiating structures are called novae.
On the other hand, this is not the first oddity New Horizons detects on Pluto. The dwarf planet is notorious for its bladed ‘snakeskin’ crust in the Tombaugh Regio, also known as Pluto’s ‘Heart’ due to its unusual shape.
You can see hundreds of feet high blades on Tartarus Dorsa, too, in the north-east. The blades are separated by narrow valleys. Scientists are still trying to figure out what caused the snakeskin terrain in the region.
Some theories claim that erosion caused by methane ice may be to blame while others suggest that tectonic forces may be involved. Researchers have likened the strange terrain in Tartarus Dorsa region to dragon scales or tree bark.
But Pluto has more surprises in store. In March, NASA scientists discovered an exotic mountain range blanketed with snow-like material which may be methane ice in the planet’s Cthulhu region.
The 1,850 mile-long mountain range stretches nearly halfway the planet’s equator, scientists said. Cthulhu which is slightly larger than Alaska appears darkened in New Horizons’ imagery. The mission team believes that the region may be covered in dark-colored tholins, which are microscopic methane byproducts that emerge when the element is exposed to sunlight.
Image Source: Wikimedia