Where In The Universe #86

by Nancy Atkinson on January 6, 2010

Is this image strange, or what?! But the location of this image is somewhere out in the Universe. Your challenge is to figure out where. You know the drill: Take a look and name the location. Give yourself extra points if you can name the spacecraft responsible for the image. As usual, we’ll provide the image today, but won’t reveal the answer until tomorrow. This gives you a chance to mull over the image and provide your answer/guess in the comment section. Please, no links or extensive explanations of what you think this is — give everyone the chance to guess.

UPDATE: Answer has now been posted below.

Yes, this really is Mars, via the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. I liked all the other interesting answers, especially the boar’s pelt. This is a brand new image from HiRISE, and its nice to see the camera back in action once again (and in fine form, too!) after its recent hiatus due to the problematic safing events.

This image shows a region of sand dunes in the high northern latitudes on Mars. The features that look like bristles, and actually streaks on the crests of the dunes. In the winter, a layer of carbon dioxide ice covers the dunes, and in the spring as the sun warms the ice it evaporates. This is a very active process, and sand dislodged from the crests of the dunes cascades down, forming dark streaks.

If you look closely at the middle-left side of the image, you’ll see what looks like a “puff” (or go look at this larger image on the HiRISE page) This is actually another avalanche that HiRISE has captured, in action! The falling material has kicked up a small cloud of dust. The color of the ice surrounding adjacent streaks of material suggests that dust has settled on the ice at the bottom after similar events.

Another great shot, HiRISE! Weird, but great!

Check back next week for another WITU Challenge.


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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