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2001 Mars Odyssey
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SPOTLIGHT
05.21.2008

Watching Seasons Pass on Mars


The first false-color image shows the broader context, with the same dunes highlighted in reddish-brown and surrounded by blue-white ice fields. The second black-and-white image shows crescent-shaped dunes silhouetted in dark gray against a white, circular background. All around the white circle are waves upon waves of dark dunes stretching into the distance.

Just as migrating birds herald the changing seasons on Earth, sand dunes show seasonal change on the fourth rock from the Sun. From a distance, crescent-shaped dunes near the north pole of Mars can even resemble birds in flight.

The dunes are part of a sea of sand that scientists call an "erg." Summer is the time of year when their winter coat of ice evaporates and exposes the reddish-brown material underneath. Like birds flying in front of the moon on Earth, meter-thick waves of frost on Mars vanish and reappear depending on the season.

Thermal Emission Imaging System, 2001 Mars Odyssey

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University

Higher Res Images:

Higher Res Images:
  This false-color image shows the broader context, with the same dunes highlighted in reddish-brown and surrounded by blue-white ice fields.
Full Size Still Image
This black-and-white image shows crescent-shaped dunes silhouetted in dark gray against a white, circular background. All around the white circle are waves upon waves of dark dunes stretching into the distance.
Full Size Still Image
 

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