The Frosted Beauty of Autumnal Mars Dunes

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As the southern hemisphere of Mars enters winter, the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s ever-watchful Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured this dreamy scene of dunes casting long shadows over the landscape. Inside those shadows, ghostly lobes of white and blue signify the presence of frost settling inside the frigid shade.

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This particular dune field occupies the outer edge of Argyre Planitia, a plain within the impact basin of Argyre in the southern highlands.

Dunes are among the most widespread, wind-blown (or “aeolian”) features on the Martian surface and are of great interest to planetary scientists. They provide a valuable clue as to the interaction between the planet’s atmosphere and its geology. In this case, seasonal processes can also be tracked.

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In another sub-frame of this HiRISE observation captured on Jan. 7, dark dust devil trails can be seen snaking across the landscape, yet another reminder of how dynamic the Martian atmosphere can be.