Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dust clouds on Mars

A new image from the UA HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows small dust clouds in a "vast region of sand dunes at high northern latitudes on Mars. In the winter, a layer of carbon dioxide ice covers the dunes, and in the spring as the sun warms the ice it evaporates. This is a very active process, and sand dislodged from the crests of the dunes cascades down, forming dark streaks.

In the subimage falling material has kicked up a small cloud of dust. The color of the ice surrounding adjacent streaks of material suggests that dust has settled on the ice at the bottom after similar events.

Also discernible in this subimage are polygonal cracks in the ice on the dunes (the cracks disappear when the ice is gone)."

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