Icy Northern Dunes

Icy Northern Dunes

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The Mesmerizing Dance of Ice and Sand: Mars’ Dynamic Northern Dunes!

Hold onto your seats, space aficionados! Mars is showing off its seasonal theatrics in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s a sight unlike anything on Earth!  Here, the polar caps don’t just thaw—they practically breathe, as carbon dioxide (the lion’s share of Mars’ atmosphere) ebbs and flows through these icy zones every year.

Now, imagine sun-drenched sand dunes swathed in a frosty coat of carbon dioxide ice as Martian spring arrives.  The drama unfolds as sunlight pierces through the icy layers, touching the dark, hidden sands below.  This heat triggers a Martian marvel—evaporating the ice from below and building up an incredible gas pressure.  Boom! The pressurized gas bursts through the ice, catapulting grains of sand to the surface.

Icy Northern Dunes - HiRISE Image-ESP_017043_2640 Icy Northern Dunes – HiRISE Image-ESP_017043_2640

What’s left in the wake of this explosive dance?  Riveting streaks of cascading sand on the icy surface, caught in an image less than 1 km across, taken from a spacecraft hovering 318 km above the Martian landscape.  Witness the relentless cycle of Mars’ unique seasonal evolution!

Check out our 3D Mars Learning Center for more information on Mars.   You can also learn more at: NASA Mars Exploration.

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