homeaboutessential guidepicture of the daythunderblogsnewsmultimediapredictionsproductsget involvedcontact

picture of the day            archive            subject index  

Geologists have dubbed these formations at Mars’ southern pole “spiders.” But no one seems able to
explain them. Credit: NASA/Mars Global Surveyor

Jul 24
, 2006
The Baffling Martian "Spiders"

The discovery of complex dendritic networks at Mars’ south pole has left NASA scientists scrambling for answers. What are these bizarre formations, and how were they created?

For two years on this website, we have explored the anomalous surface features of our nearest planetary neighbor, Mars. No other body outside of the earth has been more closely examined by planetary scientists than this “Planet of a Thousand Mysteries.” Numerous surface features find no analogy in familiar geology. And even those features which geologists claim to recognize, when examined in context and in detail, defy textbook definitions. It is only necessary to look closely to see that this is so.

The anomalies begin with the most prominent features, Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris, but extend to every region of the Martian surface. The unexplained patterns include (but reach far beyond): giant, circular craters with layered terraces, concentric rings and shallow flat floors; dense (non-random) populations of craters in regions of burned and darkened soil; strings of craters placed amidst sharply cut scoops and gouges, suggesting material removed by an “unknown” force; “inconceivable” spheres and/or domes resting inside craters; elevated craters whose floors stand higher than the surrounding terrain; braided, interweaving, flat-floored channels, revealing no evidence of either surface faulting or flowing liquid; layers of surface exhibiting dense populations of bb-sized spherules, called “blueberries,” apparently occupying the Martian surface by the trillions. While conventional geologists struggle to explain these paradoxes, proponents of the Electric Universe view the Martian landscape as a laboratory in space, demonstrating the varieties of electrical discharge effects.

As noted in a previous Picture of the Day, Olympus Mons meets every test of an anode blister (a discharge effect on a positively charged surface); Valles Marineris exhibits the defining features of an electric arc tearing across a surface. The dense populations of craters and burnt surfaces are replicated with laboratory arcs, right down to the central bumps or peaks. Even the Martian “blueberries” have been precisely replicated by electric arcs in the lab, in experiments performed by plasma physicist CJ Ransom. And when scaled upward, these lab-created “blueberries,” resting in the center of electrically produced craters, provide a compelling analog to the “impossible” domed craters on Mars.

Why then have planetary scientists not even noticed the success of the electrical hypothesis? The reason is that this hypothesis asks them to consider the theoretically “unimaginable,” to set aside the foundations of modern planetary science. It asks them to envision an unstable, electrically active solar system in the past, when Mars was engulfed by electrical discharge, its every region carved by electric arcs raking across its surface.

The electric theorists believe that systematic examination of the Martian landscape will confirm their hypothesis beyond any reasonable doubt. And they are eager to test the predictive ability of the hypothesis at every available opportunity.

One such opportunity may now be at hand in the case of the amazing “spiders” on Mars.

Discovered in 1997 by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, hundreds of these configurations have been imaged in Mars' south polar region (the only region where they occur). In each instance the configurations originate from a single center, spreading dozens of "branches" over an area that averages about 985 feet across. (See picture above.) The formations have left scientists baffled. "We're still scratching our heads over how these things are forming," says Anthony Colaprete of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. "They’re unlike anything we have on Earth."

Some investigators have suggested that the spiders are dendritic drainage channels. But one characteristic that makes the formations so difficult to explain is the way they "work against" gravity. In fact, the branching occurs radially from a center, positively excluding a drainage function. Moreover, the spiders form in identical shapes irrespective of the terrain. Often, a single ravine is seen moving both uphill and down. And many of these radial patterns occur on a consistent incline.

Others suspect that the "spiders" are caused by sublimation of CO2 hidden under the soil. A variation of this explanation was proposed in a recent issue of Astronomy magazine (July, 2006). But CO2 is known to be present in abundance in south polar regions that do not exhibit spiders, and throughout the north polar region which exhibits no spiders. No sublimation process has ever been observed that produces the consistent branching pattern (called Fibonacci branching ) of these bizarre forms.

So what are the Martian "spiders"? Interestingly, there is an analogy on another planet, but it is never mentioned. Stretching around the equator of the planet Venus is a vast display of what planetary scientists call “arachnoids.” Indeed, these overlying formations display more finely filamented branching ravines than the “spiders” on Mars. But there is a reason why planetary scientists have not concerned themselves with the similarities in both name and morphology. Why would they compare formative processes at a frigid pole of Mars with formative processes on Venus, where temperatures exceed nine hundred degrees Fahrenheit?

In electrical terms, of course, the considerations that preclude a comparison of Mars and Venus no longer apply. Therefore, we shall take up the electrical interpretation of Martian “spiders” in our Picture of the Day for July 26.


Please visit our Forum

The Electric Sky and The Electric Universe available now!


Authors David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill introduce the reader to an age of planetary instability and earthshaking electrical events in ancient times. If their hypothesis is correct, it could not fail to alter many paths of scientific investigation.

More info

Professor of engineering Donald Scott systematically unravels the myths of the "Big Bang" cosmology, and he does so without resorting to black holes, dark matter, dark energy, neutron stars, magnetic "reconnection", or any other fictions needed to prop up a failed theory.

More info


In language designed for scientists and non-scientists alike, authors Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott show that even the greatest surprises of the space age are predictable patterns in an electric universe.

More info

David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Steve Smith, Mel Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Dwardu Cardona, Ev Cochrane,
C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
  WEBMASTER: Brian Talbott

Copyright 2006:

home  •  thunderblogs  •   forum  •  picture of the day  •   resources  •  team  •  updates  •  contact us