Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2000 February 2

Aeolian Mars
Credit: Malin Space Science Systems, MGS, JPL, NASA

Explanation: Mars' atmosphere is relatively thin, still when martian winds blow they weather and shape its surface. Like familiar aeolian features on Earth, this field of dunes within Mars' Rabe crater exhibits graceful undulating ridges which can shift as windblown material is deposited on the dunes' windward face and falls away down the steeper leeward slopes. Indicated by the arrow, the dark trails are signs that the martian sand has avalanched down the steep slopes in the recent past. Rippling patterns of smaller dunes are also visible in this sharp high-resolution view along with criss-crossing dark trails which may be evidence of local dust-devil windstorms. The image is about 3 kilometers across and was recorded in March of 1999 by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.

Tomorrow's picture: Colorful Clouds of Carina

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.