The Mars orbiter has sent back pictures of strange black objects which were spotted from 200 miles above the surface. The images are generating interest, with people speculating that they are anything from geysers to sunbathing colonies of microorganisms.
Several photographs of the objects have been taken, and NPR has compared them, saying that they appear to show “little black flecks dotting the ridges, mostly on the sunny side, like sunbathing spiders sitting in rows.”
The strange spider-like objects were first discovered in 1998. They appear when the surface of Mars begins to warm and show up in the same location most times. They disappear like clockwork as the Martian winter approaches.
Most scientists have their own theories about what the objects may be, but the leading explanation for the strange objects is that they are geysers of CO2 exploding from under the planet’s surface.
Yahoo! News notes that Phil Christensen of Arizona State University stated:
“If you were there, you’d be standing on a slab of carbon dioxide ice. All around you, roaring jets of carbon dioxide gas are throwing sand and dust a couple hundred feet into the air. The ground below would be rumbling. You’d feel it in your spaceboots.”
This is the leading explanation — for now at least. The spidery traces in the photos could be clumps of dark, basaltic sand being thrown from the geysers. A group of Hungarian scientists sees it differently, believing that they are colonies of photosynthetic Martian microorganisms, warmed from the sun and sunbathing in plain view.