Sunday, November 29, 2009

Winter Frosted Mars Dunes : Big Pic

Sunday, November 29, 2009
NASA's High Resolution Science Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has changed our view of the Red Planet. With mind-blowing clarity, this hi-tech instrument can even keep an eye on the Mars rovers as they roll across the regolith.

The HiRISE image gallery has become one of the most comprehensive and visually stunning chronicles of planetary exploration available online and it is continually updated with freshly-processed images of various Martian landscapes. Although the mission is currently recovering after a glitch in August, forcing controllers to switch the satellite into "safe mode," new HiRISE images are always being processed.

In this example, dunes within a Mars crater are detailed (to a resolution of 50 cm/pixel). The image was taken when the southern hemisphere was in the depths of winter in November 2006. The ripples in the dunes are caused by winds shaping the lose dust and sand. The bright areas are either water or carbon dioxide ice frosting the east-facing slopes of the dunes (in the shade from the sun). The darker areas are where sunlight has heated the surface, melting the ice.

For context, a full-resolution overview of the region is available.


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