Scientists used to think that the huge sea of sand dunes at the Martian north pole—a sea the size of Texas—was fairly unchanging. But new NASA photos reveal avalanches caused by the Martian spring thaw.
Photos taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of the basalt sand dunes near the north pole show that the dunes have been altered just like those of Earth … and scientists are blown away by the evidence.
“I was hoping for tiny little changes to be detectable,” said planetary scientist Candice Hansen-Koharcheck of the Planetary Science Institute to Discovery News. “This was more like knock-your-socks-off kind of stuff. It’s a very active part of the Mars landscape in today’s climate.”
The images even capture an instance in which hundreds of cubic yards of sand had avalanched down the face of a dune as a result of carbon dioxide gas escaping from the warming ground.