Strange 'honeycomb' pattern spotted on Mars – can you tell what caused it? | The Sun

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THEY may look like they were left by giant space bees or spiders, but these honeycomb patterns on Mars have a far simpler explanation.

The strange lattices have been photographed on the Martian surface plenty of times and are the result of seasonal changes on the planet.

Ice at the surface expands and contracts as the seasons change, leaving behind a mesmerising network of lines and shapes.

The phenomenon has been known about for years but was recently highlighted by scientists at The University of Arizona.

A team at the institution operates the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Experiment, also known as HIRISE.

It's a powerful camera that captures vast swathes of the Martian surface from above, including its strange honeycomb motifs.

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They form over many years when water ice frozen in the soil splits the ground into polygon shapes.

Dry ice under the surface becomes steam when the ground warms in Spring, creating even more erosion that gouges channels around the boundaries of the shapes.

"Both water and dry ice have a major role in sculpting Mars’ surface at high latitudes," scientists wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

"Water ice frozen in the soil splits the ground into polygons.

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"Erosion of the channels forming the boundaries of the polygons by dry ice sublimating in the spring adds plenty of twists and turns to them."

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been in orbit around the Red Planet since 2006.

Alongside other orbiters, the spacecraft has captured plenty of pictures of Mars' polygon structures down the years.

Scientists study them because the features can help to understand how ice is distributed across the Martian surface.

They can also shed light on climate conditions on Earth's dusty neighbour.

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Mars isn't the only place with polygons. Similar patterns have been spotted on the surface of Pluto by Nasa's New Horizon spacecraft.

They can even be found a little closer to home, appearing in Earth's arctic and Antarctic regions.

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