Icy Northern Dunes
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Icy Northern Dunes
ESP_017043_2640  Science Theme: Seasonal Processes
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Like Earth, Mars has seasonal polar caps that grow in the winter and retreat in the spring, but on Mars the seasonal caps are composed primarily of carbon dioxide (dry ice). Carbon dioxide is the major component of the Martian atmosphere, and a significant fraction of the mass of the atmosphere is cycled through the seasonal caps every year.

This image shows sand dunes that are mostly covered by seasonal frost/ice in the northern spring. When the springtime sun shines on the ice, some of it penetrates to the base of the ice and warms the dark sand dune surface below. The warm sand evaporates the carbon dioxide ice from below, building gas pressure that apparently breaks the ice and carries sand to the surface as the pressure is released. The sand then cascades down the surface of the ice, forming the streaks seen in this image.

Written by: Ken Herkenhoff   (5 May 2010)

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Acquisition date:16 March 2010 Local Mars time: 1:52 PM
Latitude (centered):83.711° Longitude (East):235.731°
Range to target site:320.3 km (200.2 miles)Original image scale range:64.1 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~192 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale:50 cm/pixelMap projection:Polarstereographic
Emission angle:7.7° Phase angle:56.2°
Solar incidence angle:62°, with the Sun about 28° above the horizon Solar longitude:64.8°, Northern Spring
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North azimuth:110° Sub-solar azimuth:318.3°
For map-projected products
North azimuth:34.28°Sub solar azimuth:243.7°

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For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona. The image data were processed using the U.S. Geological Survey’s ISIS3 software.