Winter On Mars Like Never Before
<

Winter On Mars Like Never Before

Autumn and winter temperatures bring changes to the Red Planet as the carbon dioxide atmosphere turns to dry ice frost that clings to the surface. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used its powerful cameras to capture detailed pictures and measurements of wintry scenes – of nature’s beauty at work – on Mars.

The long streaks that stripe the walls of this crater are gullies In the Martian winter, frost can build up in the gullies, especially on the cold slopes that face the pole. These gullies are active. Frost causes the gully activity in some as yet unknown way.

In fall and winter, frost coats the dunes inside 34 mile-diameter Richardson Crater in the south polar region of Mars. Dark streaks and spots are areas that are thawing out. The seasonal ice eventually gives way to reveal the sand beneath.

Frosted crescent-shaped dunes in the Martian North Pole are dotted with bare patches of sand where warming springtime temperatures have vaporized the frost.

In the colder temperatures of late fall, carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere condenses into ice and settles on the Martian surface for a long winter’s nap. With spring and summer warmth, the frost will vaporize again to rejoin Mars’ tenuous atmosphere.

Undulating dunes in the southern hemisphere’s Aonia Terra are monitored for changes such as gullies, which form over the winter from the action of carbon dioxide frost. Frost was just starting to accumulate on south-facing slopes when this late-fall picture was taken.

The triangular spots that look like lines of pine trees are just some of the complex patterns created when winter turns to spring, and Mars’ carbon dioxide frost begins to vaporize and reveal the ground below.

Looking like holiday ribbon candy, layers of dusty water ice deposits at the Martian North Pole are several miles thick. Frost on the wall of a trough that cuts into these deposits highlights individual layers.

Ice-covered dunes crack in warmer springtime temperatures and allow sand beneath to blow into fan-shaped deposits on top of the ice. When the ice cracks at the crest of a dune, the sand sometimes slides down, leaving dark traces in the dune walls.

It stays cold enough to maintain permanent year-round ice near Mars’ South Pole. The defrosting walls of flat-floored pits stand in stark contrast against the carbon dioxide ice. The smallest of the pits, at center, are stadium-size.

Ice-covered dunes crack in warmer springtime temperatures and allow sand beneath to blow into fan-shaped deposits on top of the ice. When the ice cracks at the crest of a dune, the sand sometimes slides down, leaving dark traces in the dune walls.

[Photos: NASA/JPL/Cal-Tech]

Filed in: Photography Tags: , ,

Previous Post <<

>> Next Post

Share your thoughts

2011-2013 © UrbanPeek All rights reserved, unless otherwise noted. I try my best to attribute images, videos, and quotes to their creators and original sources.Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited - Cairo, Egypt.