Seasonal Erosion and Restoration of Mars
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Seasonal Erosion and Restoration of Mars' Dunes
ESP_018427_2640  Science Theme: Seasonal Processes
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Read the UA press release here.

Three images of the same location taken at different times on Mars show seasonal activity causing sand avalanches and ripple changes on a Martian dune.

HiRISE took these images, centered at 84 degrees North latitude and 233.2 degrees East longitude. Dune fields at high latitudes are covered every year by a seasonal polar cap of condensed carbon dioxide (dry ice).

The sequential images, which each show an area 285 x 140 meters, depict the before and after morphology of the dune in one Mars year, with new alcoves and extension of the debris apron on the slipface of the dune caused by the grainfall, and new wind ripples on the debris apron.

The top image was taken first, in the Martian summer when the dunes were free of seasonal dry ice. The middle image was acquired in the spring when the region was covered by a layer of seasonal ice. Spring evaporation of the seasonal layer of ice is manifested as dark streaks of fine particles carried to the top of the ice layer by escaping gas. Gas flow under the ice as the ice sublimates (changes from solid to gas) from the bottom destabilizes the sand on the dune, and causes the sand to avalanche down the dune slipface.

The third image shows the resulting changes revealed the following summer after the frozen layer of ice was gone. Comparison of the middle and lower images shows the correlation of seasonal activity with locations of change of dune morphology.

Written by: Candy Hansen   (3 February 2011)



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Acquisition date:02 July 2010 Local Mars time: 1:02 PM
Latitude (centered):83.987° Longitude (East):233.282°
Range to target site:321.2 km (200.8 miles)Original image scale range:32.1 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~96 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale:25 cm/pixelMap projection:Polarstereographic
Emission angle:8.9° Phase angle:68.3°
Solar incidence angle:61°, with the Sun about 29° above the horizon Solar longitude:112.5°, Northern Summer
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North azimuth:126° Sub-solar azimuth:320.5°
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North azimuth:36.75°Sub solar azimuth:233.0°

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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.