Images of an avalanche of fine ice and dust thundering over a cliff near Mars’s north pole have been captured by a high resolution camera from a NASA spacecraft.
It’s not the first avalanche captured by the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
NASA first detected the phenomenon in 2008, believed to be caused by a thin “crust” of frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) which forms during the Martian winter.
The HiRISE high resolution camera took the amazing photograph at 85 degrees north on the planet.
The HiRISE camera is one of several hi-tech instruments on board Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It’s the largest camera ever carried into deep space.
NASA’s ground team says that the events are detectable by a cloud of fine material that erupts when avalanches collapse down slopes on the planet.
Some avalanches on Mars are caused by meteorite impacts, but others are thought to be the result of ‘seasons’ on the planet, which has winters, just like Earth.
Planetary scientist Ingrid Daubar Spitale of the University of Arizona, who first noticed the avalanches in photos taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter said: “It’s great to see something so dynamic on Mars. A lot of what we see there hasn’t changed for millions of years.”