Dynamic Mars
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Dynamic Mars
ESP_042572_2640  Science Theme: Climate Change

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This scarp at the edge of the North Polar layered deposits of Mars is the site of the most frequent frost avalanches seen by HiRISE. At this season, northern spring, frost avalanches are common and HiRISE monitors the scarp to learn more about the timing and frequency of the avalanches, and their relationship to the evolution of frost on the flat ground above and below the scarp.

This picture managed to capture a small avalanche in progress, right in the color strip. See if you can spot it in the browse image, and then click on the cutout to see it at full resolution. The small white cloud in front of the brick red cliff is likely carbon dioxide frost dislodged from the layers above, caught in the act of cascading down the cliff. It is larger than it looks, more than 20 meters across, and (based on previous examples) it will likely kick up clouds of dust when it hits the ground.

The avalanches tend to take place at a season when the North Polar region is warming, suggesting that the avalanches may be triggered by thermal expansion. The avalanches remind us, along with active sand dunes, dust devils, slope streaks and recurring slope lineae, that Mars is an active and dynamic planet.

Written by: Paul Geissler   (30 September 2015)

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Acquisition date:26 August 2015 Local Mars time:13:30
Latitude (centered):83.887° Longitude (East):235.068°
Range to target site:320.2 km (200.1 miles)Original image scale range:64.1 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~192 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale:50 cm/pixelMap projection:Polarstereographic
Emission angle:7.7° Phase angle:66.0°
Solar incidence angle:71°, with the Sun about 19° above the horizon Solar longitude:32.9°, Northern Spring

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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.