Clouds give a fuzzy view of ice-topped dunes on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Clouds give a fuzzy view of ice-topped dunes on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Mars

Clouds Get in the Way on Mars

22 Mar , 2012 by

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The science team from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter wanted to take another look at a region of icy sand dunes on Mars to look for seasonal changes as spring is now arriving on the Red Planet’s northern hemisphere. But the view was obstructed by clouds, creating this unusual hazy view.

“This happens occasionally. We’ve found that weather forecasting on Mars is just as challenging — if not more — than on Earth,” said HiRISE team member Candy Hansen, who I nabbed in the hallway during the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference today, to ask about this unique image. “The clouds are likely made of water ice crystals, and the dunes have a coating of CO2 ice that is just starting to sublimate away as the Sun’s rays are getting stronger in this region.”

Hansen said these are dark barchan, or crescent-shaped dunes. During the winter, this region was completely covered with carbon dioxide ice, but now just the the tops of the dune have ice; also visible are what looks like white cracks, which is ice protected in shallow grooves on the ground. HiRISE will likely check back on this region later during the Martian summer to provide the science team with a seasonal sequence portfolio of images of the region, a benefit of having a mission in orbit for several years. MRO and HiRISE are workhorses, having been in orbit since March of 2006.

See the original image on the HiRISE website.

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Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.



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joshhsoj1902
Guest
joshhsoj1902
March 23, 2012 12:37 AM

Does anyone else see at the bottom of that photo?

What Now
Guest
What Now
March 23, 2012 1:52 AM

I know its another optical illusion or whatever but what is it with Mars and human faces?

Dampe
Guest
Dampe
March 23, 2012 2:08 AM

That’s no optical illusion, it’s a space station…

tony
Guest
tony
March 23, 2012 2:23 AM

Nope. That’s Romeo, my goat! But off to the left looks to be Thomas Jefferson.
Now, I know goats are curious, but I’ve no clue what Tom is doing on mars.

Denver
Member
Denver
March 23, 2012 2:15 AM

What? The Easter Island statue in profile?

andrew g
Guest
andrew g
March 23, 2012 2:18 PM

That’s no human face, call Doctor Who, it’s a Cyberman!!!

Jeffrey Scott Boerst
Guest
March 23, 2012 8:57 AM

Not only is there the face, but the clouds are reminiscent to me of the classic 50’s “flying saucers”. Dick Hoagland must be having a FIELD day with this image………

WaxyMary
Member
WaxyMary
March 23, 2012 5:07 PM
Those are not the clouds, JSB, those are the dunes capped with CO2, rather; the clouds are the wispy things you are viewing through to see the more solid dune tops. The spider web of frozen water ice is closer to the ground level than the tops of the dunes. These dunes are tens to hundreds of meters above that surface. The face like object is another of the dunes capped with CO2 frost and seen through a hole in the clouds. The circular vignetting draws your eye to that feature in the clear area. The stark contrast of the flat lands around that dune and the angle and type of the lighting, the type of filtered sun… Read more »
Zoutsteen
Member
Zoutsteen
March 23, 2012 2:03 PM

Unidentified Facial Object?

wpDiscuz