This observation from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a sand dune field in the Nili Fossae region of Mars. The dark lines swirling over the surface of the dunes are the tracks of dust devils.
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Dust Devil Tracks and Slope Streaks on Martian Sand Dunes

This observation shows a sand dune field in the Nili Fossae region of Mars. The dark lines swirling over the surface of the dunes are the tracks of dust devils.

Dust devils are whirlwinds that pick up the light colored dust on the surface as they move around in odd patterns. The lines visible on the dunes are the dark sand left behind when the surface layer of dust has been removed.

This area was previously imaged in August 2009, about two Mars years ago, and in that image dust devil tracks were also visible. However, the tracks visible now are completely different from the earlier ones. This tells us that there has been at least one dust storm since then to erase the old tracks, and lots of dust devil activity to create the new ones.

We can also see dark linear streaks going down the slopes of the dunes. These features are caused by some sort of flow down the slope of the dune which strips away the light surface layer of dust. In 2009, similar streaks were observed on the slopes of the dunes; however, they were different from the ones which are observed now. Thus, the flows which are causing these streaks are still active today.

HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the orbiter's HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Image details

ID#:
PIA17728

Date added:
2013-05-15

Target:
Mars

Mission:
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

Spacecraft:
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

Instruments:
High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE)

Size:
2880 x 1800 pixels (width x height)

Rating:



Views:
391

Full-Res TIFF:
PIA17728.tif (15.56 MB)

Full-Res JPG:
PIA17728.jpg (0.6 MB)

Image credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona