Seasonal Erosion and Restoration of Mars’ Dunes
Seasonal Erosion and Restoration of Mars’ Dunes
ESP_018427_2640  Science Theme: Seasonal Processes
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 by 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  (2 August 2010)

Acquisition date
02 July 2010

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
317.1 km (197.0 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/pixel

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Emission angle

Phase angle

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:  320.6°
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All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:

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. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.