NASA’s Mars Orbiter has captured an amazing picture of a massive ice avalanche on Mars. Falling ice creates an epic dust cloud.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) used its High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera to capture the massive ice avalanche at the North Pole of Mars.
Avalanches on the red planet usually occur during spring. That’s when the warmth from sunlight causes the ice layers to melt and crumble.
“Every spring the sun shines on the side of the stack of layers at the North Pole of Mars known as the north polar layered deposits,” wrote planetary scientist Candy Hansen. “The warmth destabilizes the ice and blocks break loose.”
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The falling ice kicked up a plume of dust, creating a red cloud on the planet’s surface.
“When they reach the bottom of the more than 500-meter tall cliff face, the blocks kick up a cloud of dust,” Hansen wrote. “The layers beneath are different colors and textures depending on the amount of dust mixed with ice.”
Avalanche season on Mars: Every spring the Sun shines on the layered deposits near the planet’s north pole, destabilizing the ice there. In May, our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught this avalanche in the act. Details: https://t.co/tFov7f45E7 pic.twitter.com/b8RA3fEe3I— NASA Solar System (@NASASolarSystem) September 3, 2019
However, there are also other factors that might cause avalanches on Mars. In June 2018, NASA’s orbiter was able to spot an avalanche that was caused by a meteorite impact on Mars.
The MRO has been in orbit around the red planet since 2006, sending us stunning pictures of Mars’ terrain.