Avalanche!

NASA has released an image of an avalanche occurring on Mars.

20080307_mars_avalanche

According to NASA’s news release, the false-colour image,

…was taken on February 19, 2008, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Details are provided:

Material, likely including fine-grained ice and dust and possibly including large blocks, has detached from a towering cliff and cascaded to the gentler slopes below. The occurrence of the avalanches is spectacularly revealed by the accompanying clouds of fine material that continue to settle out of the air. The … cloud traces the path of the debris as it fell down the slope, hit the lower slope, and continues downhill, forming a billowing cloud front. This cloud is about 180 meters (590 feet) across and extends about 190 meters (625 feet) from the base of the steep cliff. Shadows to the lower left of each cloud illustrate further that these are three dimensional features hanging in the air in front of the cliff face, and not markings on the ground. Sunlight is from the upper right.

Scientists are all about the details:

The complete image, HiRISE PSP_007338_2640, is centered at 83.7 degrees latitude, 235.8 degrees east longitude. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 1:05 p.m. and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 70 degrees, thus the sun was about 20 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 34.0 degrees, the season on Mars is northern spring.


Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

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