Pluto's 'Ice Spider' Is Like Nothing Scientists Have Seen in the Outer Solar System


We've found a heart, a "strange 'X' shape" and a weird "snakeskin" feature on Pluto. Now, we can add giant icy spider to the list of the dwarf planet's weird geology. 

The feature is made of six fractures that span out from a central point like spider legs. The longest one is named Sleipnir Fossa, and it's about 360 miles long. You can see a red subsurface layer exposed by the cracks.


"The pattern these fractures form is like nothing else we've seen in the outer solar system, and shows once again that anywhere we look on Pluto, we see something different," Oliver White, a member of the New Horizons geology team, said in a statement.

The spider-shaped fractures probably formed from a "focused source of stress," according to NASA. For example, some kind of material "welling up" beneath the surface may have caused the radiating cracks.

Here you can see where the spider is on Pluto:


The set of icy spider images were captured about 21,100 miles from Pluto, or roughly 45 minutes before the New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach on July 14. The resolution is about 2,230 feet per pixel. 

h/t Nature World News