Spectacular Richardson Crater Dunes
Spectacular Richardson Crater Dunes
ESP_023956_1075  Science Theme: Aeolian Processes
Richardson Crater is well-known among Mars scientists for its spectacular dunes.

These dunes are located around minus 72 degrees in latitude; if they were on Earth they'd be well south of the Antarctic Circle! Because of their extreme southern positioning, they endure dramatic temperature changes over the course of the Martian year. The HiRISE team attempts to monitor this area as these dunes get covered by seasonal frost in the fall and defrost in the spring, taking multiple images over the same locations in order to better understand the structure and evolution of these beautiful landforms.

This image was taken close to the Southern Hemisphere autumnal equinox, the end of Southern hemisphere Summer and beginning of autumn. Unlike that observed on Earth, the frost seen on the Richardson Crater dunes is composed of carbon dioxide, and sublimates (goes directly from a solid to a gas) rather than melts. At the time of this image, the frost has likely disappeared to its greatest extent and will begin to re-acummulate soon.

Wide, dark streaks are visible extending from the crests of the dunes, likely due to movement of material as the dunes defrosted or to wind transportation of surface particles. Numerous dust devil tracks are still visible as thin, dark, criss-crossing marks, although these will gradually be covered by carbon dioxide frost as Southern hemisphere winter sets in.

The subimage is approximately 1 kilometer (about 0.62 miles) across.

To see the previous image taken at this same location, taken in early Southern Hemisphere Spring as the dunes were thawing, see ESP_011785_1075.

To take a look at other impressive dunes from various locations within Richardson Crater, see ESP_012774_1080, PSP_004230_1080, and ESP_012985_1075.

Written by: Kristin Block  (5 October 2011)
Acquisition date
06 September 2011

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
247.8 km (154.0 miles)

Original image scale range
50.2 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~151 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
76°, with the Sun about 14° above the horizon

Solar longitude
356.3°, Northern Winter

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  101°
Sub-solar azimuth:  56.1°
Black and white
map projected  non-map

IRB color
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Merged IRB
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Merged RGB
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RGB color
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Black and white
map-projected   (295MB)

IRB color
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Black and white
map-projected  (148MB)
non-map           (198MB)

IRB color
map projected  (79MB)
non-map           (195MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (327MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (312MB)

RGB color
non map           (201MB)
B&W label
Color label
Merged IRB label
Merged RGB label
EDR products

IRB: infrared-red-blue
RGB: red-green-blue
About color products (PDF)

Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
For scale, use JPEG/JP2 black & white map-projected images

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.