Where In The Universe #86

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, weโ€™ll provide the image today, but wonโ€™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 โ€” 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.

29 Replies to “Where In The Universe #86”

  1. mars – hirise
    not sure region of top of my head.. somehwere near the poles looks like ice.

  2. No question about it: Mars, one of the polar regions, shot by HiRISE onboard the MRO.

    My only question is: what the heck is THAT?! CO2 geysers?!

  3. Lookingbeyond: You got here just as I was logging on, but Mars? What is the plant life in the photo? AFAIK, there’s no vegetation on Mars. I’d guess Earth somewhere, a snowscape shot with some sort of filter.

  4. My first guess was Mars, HIRISE, but on second guess, I’m thinking somewhere on Earth (no idea where though, so it isn’t much of a guess:P). I’ve never seen anything on Mars that looked *quite* like that. Similar, but not exactly the same. Course, just because I’ve never seen it doesn’t mean that such an area doesn’t exist on Mars.

  5. Without a doubt this has to be Mars from HIRISE. Similar position to the Mars “tattoo” that floated around for a while.
    What I wanna know is:
    a) what are those tree like formations
    b) where does the blue come from!?

  6. Terreformed Mars anyone? The red and blue looks awfully martian, but thos bristles sticking up look like trees. So honestly I suspect this is Earth, though I have no idea where.


  7. HiRISE, sand dunes at high northern latitudes on Mars.

    No plant life there ๐Ÿ˜›

    “There is a vast region of sand dunes at high northern latitudes on Mars. 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.”

  8. Definitely not trees. At first glance, I can understand how you’d get that impression, though. But look closer. They “grow” in multiple directions, but they don’t cast shadows… Looking a little closer, they show as gullies carved in the faces of the steep sides of dunes.

    Agreed that it looks like a HiRISE image of dunes in the northern polar sea, but I don’t know the exact image.

  9. One more from HiRISE camera (07 April 2008) – Mars sand dunes:
    “Falling Material Kicks Up Cloud of Dust on Dunes”

  10. I can’t tell, but I’m curious if the white areas are a function of illumination or of a state of melting.

    On the one hand they have a tendency to look to the right (if I’m reading the topography right), but they also tend to clump to the black “bristles”.

    I am not sure about the camera’s resolution, but I think by thinking of the bristles as trees, we’re doing them an injustice – does anyone know LRO’s resolution and how large these bristles are? (Are the optics fixed or can it zoom out?)

  11. Hi
    This is my first posting and, surely, my first mistake.
    I think I see water erosion, isn’t? And the light is a little diffuse, as it were coming through an atmosphere.
    My guess: It’s some kind of terrestrial sand dunes just emerged

  12. I keep looking at those bristles. I agree they are oriented in some odd directions from dune to dune, which suggests they are not trees. At first I thought these might be oases in a terrestrial desert, but then again, oases occur at the bases of dunes, not at their tops or crests. Yet those bristles sure appear to be standing up. They appear to be emerging from what, for lack of any better term, is an invaginated region. Maybe the ancients assigned the gender of Mars wrongly. These just don’t appear to be lying on the surface of the dunes.

    With some research I agree this is martian, from HiRISE.


  13. Mars, taken from MRO (I think).

    A very strange image. Looks like palm trees in the desert.

  14. Is that the pelt of an old boar?

    Seriously, processed images are difficult. ROCA nailed it though, it’s sand dunes at high northern latitudes on Mars. So HiRISE, so MRO.

  15. It reminds me very much of the time when I saw a paramecium use its trichocysts against another organism, back many years ago when I was a bio major. So I’m going to take a wild guess and say that this could possibly be a living organism, perhaps a polychaete worm. Can’t wait to see what the real answer is!

  16. I’ll go for snowy hills on earth, near somewhere where loose red sand or soil is blowing around

  17. No matter how I look at the picture, I cannot see the “trees/bristles” as sandslides down the dunes. Each row of “trees” seems to be associated with a white line (ice?) and a black line. It the white line the *source* of the slides, and the black line the bottom of the dune? I think my eyes are telling me it’s the other way around, which could be the source of the confusion. Probably because some of the black “trees” (eg just left of the puff mentioned in the post) seem to overlap the white lines of ice.

  18. A request: Could you please post slightly larger version of the image or at least a link to one for the Challenge henceforth? It need not be embiggenable to cosmic proportions, but perhaps 50% larger or so than the one posted would do. ๐Ÿ™‚

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