picture of the day
“The Spider” near the center of Caloris Basin on
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Feb 04, 2008
Mercury’s Araneidal Terrain
“Spiders” appear where you least expect
them. Some are found on Mars and now they have been seen on
Mercury. Are electric discharges responsible for both?
In our last Picture of the Day article about
Mercury, the chaotic topography and the massive cratering was attributed to
some kind of extensive plasma discharge in the past. Images
from the MESSENGER spacecraft, however, reveal a scarred
surface that has undergone Electric Discharge Machining (EDM)
and ion beam erosion on a massive scale, although Mercury is
not experiencing that level of flare-up today.
So-called “spiders” are
found on Mars in abundance. They are concentrated in
south polar latitudes and appear when the deposits of carbon
dioxide frost sublime back into gas during the Martian
summer. The morphology of the various spider-like features
positive and negative impressions in the rocky terrain
that is buried every winter by dry-ice precipitation. Some
“spider” formations are raised above the mean elevation of
their surroundings, while others are deeply cut into the
exhibits a similar pattern of branching,
filamentary trackways called “arachnoids”. They are
massive in extent, some covering several hundred kilometers,
and closely resemble giant Lichtenberg figures.
Thunderbolts Picture of the Day articles reported that NASA
scientists believe the Martian “spiders” could have been
created by liquid erosion, perhaps water flowing in
“dendritic drainage channels” over the now bone-dry planet.
But what to do about “drainage” on planets whose surface
temperatures exceed 400 degrees C?
On Earth, structures very
much like those on Mars and Venus (and now Mercury) can be
seen in arid environments where rain and wind erosion cannot
be the cause of such remarkable scenery.
Spider Crater in Australia appears to be the namesake
for what we see on the other planets – it is located in a
region where EU theorists propose that
giant electric arcs touched down and excavated the
The “spider” on Mercury is
found within the enormous
Caloris Basin. Recent telemetry from MESSENGER indicates
that the multi-ringed “impact structure” is larger than
previously measured by Mariner 10 – almost 1600 kilometers
in diameter. One intriguing aspect of Caloris is that it
contains two offset rims with multiple “rayed” craters
inside its boundaries.
As Electric Universe author
Wal Thornhill wrote:
“The huge ringed basin is an
electrical scar. One of the characteristic features seen in
cathodic electrical cratering, and inexplicable by impact,
is terracing of crater walls. Another is the concentric
ringed structure accompanying the blisters found on
lightning arrestors following a lightning strike. Electric
discharges always hit a surface vertically to form neat
circular craters, often with flat melted floors. Impacts do
not. Impacts cause little melting but extensive collateral
damage. Cosmic discharges take the form of rotating pairs of
Birkeland filaments, which drill into a surface to form
rotary and corkscrew patterns.”
Thus the dual offset rims of
Caloris Basin and the superficial rays confirm what the
Ralph Juergens also identified as electrical effects.
Stephen Smith from an idea suggested by Thane Hubbell
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