homeaboutessential guidepicture of the daythunderblogsnewsmultimediapredictionsproductsget involvedcontact

picture of the day            archive            subject index  

On the left: An electrical discharge to a negatively charged surface, recorded on a photographic plate.
On the right: A Martian “spider.”

Jul 26
, 2006
The Baffling Martian Spiders (2)

The mysterious “spiders” on Mars show all of the expected features of an electric discharge in its classic form as a Lichtenberg figure.

In a previous picture of the day, we noted the presence of hundreds of fascinating and bizarre formations called “spiders” at the south pole of Mars. We also noted that since the discovery of these formations a few years ago—and despite the best efforts of planetary scientists—they have evaded scientific explanation.

We did, however, draw a comparison with the “arachnoids” on Venus – overlying “spidery” formations stretching around the planet’s equator.

In an earlier TPOD on the Venusian arachnoids, we drew attention to an electrical formation called a “Lichtenberg figure” (above image on the left). In 1777, the German scientist Christoph Lichtenberg discovered that dust settling on a cake of non-conducting resin, when subjected to an electric spark, produced starlike patterns. Later, other pioneers found that these Lichtenberg Figures could be recorded directly on film as a two dimensional photograph of discharge streamers. The positive and negative surfaces in a discharge produce quite different formations.

If planetary scientists will consider the role of electricity in solar system history, Lichtenberg figures will become an important diagnostic tool. The paths of cosmic discharges across planetary surfaces will account for many features erroneously attributed to erosion by flowing liquids or to rifting of the surface by internal stresses. Lichtenberg figures in three-dimensions may provide insights into the morphology of mountain ranges, ridges, and gullies such as the arachnoids on Venus, the great crater Aristarchus on the Moon and numerous counterparts on other rocky bodies. This would include the so-called “drainage channels” on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Interestingly, it appears that none of the prolific discussions of the Martian spiders includes the word “Lichtenberg,” or the word “electric,” despite the bafflement of researchers. If nothing else, the absence of such discussion can only underscore the narrowing of vision in the twentieth century, as the theoretical sciences enshrined the electrically sterile universe.

In electrical terms, it is probably not a coincidence that the Lichtenberg figures are concentrated in a polar region, though the specific type of scarring of the Martian south pole needs to be explored.

The unique branching pattern of the “spiders,” called Fibonacci branching, is in fact precisely matched by Lichtenberg figures. While some have suggested that the “spiders” are dendritic drainage channels, both the Lichtenberg patterns and the “spiders” radiate from a center, making the distinction between such patterns and drainage channels obvious.

Like the “spiders,” the branching of a Lichtenberg figure will be largely indifferent to topography. And it is only to be expected that the ravines of such formations would not follow terrain in the fashion of flowing liquid.

Strictly speaking, the suggestion of one investigator that the spiders are “unlike anything we have on Earth,” is not correct. We have placed here a picture of the pattern left by a lightning strike on a golf course. Decades ago, it was engineer Ralph Juergens who cited this pattern of a lightning blast in connection with the morphology of Aristarchus on the Moon.

We note as well that the electrical explanation also accounts for the presence of burnt soil in virtually every instance observed—a common feature of discharge scarring.

In other words, the electrical interpretation removes each and every difficulty planetary scientists have faced in studying the Martian “spiders. But there is more to the mystery, and in our Picture of the Day for July 28, we will take up the remaining questions.


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