Sunday, November 11, 2012

Image Of Spring On Mars

This image was taken on the first day of spring in the Southern hemisphere. Like the Earth, Mars is tilted on its axis, and the sun crosses the equator twice each year. On Earth we call this the equinox.

In the winter a seasonal polar cap composed of dry ice covers the polar regions. Although this is just the first day of spring and the sun is very low in the sky, activity associated with the sublimation (going directly from solid to gas) of the polar cap is already underway. A layer of ice coats this entire scene, and fans of dark material are deposited on top of the ice. This dark material is carried to the top of the ice by escaping gas flowing through the spidery channels carved in the surface.
In the summer, when the ice is gone, the fans are no longer visible.

Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

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