This incredible photograph depicts avalanches near the north pole of Mars. Snapped by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, it's the first ever image of active avalanches on the Red Planet. From NASA:
"It really surprised me," says planetary scientist Ingrid Daubar Spitale of the University of Arizona who first noticed the avalanches in photos taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Feb. 19th. "It's great to see something so dynamic on Mars. A lot of what we see there hasn't changed for millions of years..."Link (Thanks, Paul Saffo!)
The full image reveals features as small as a desk in a strip of terrain 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) wide and more than 10 times that long, at 84 degrees north latitude. Reddish layers known to be rich in water ice make up the face of a steep slope more than 700 meters (2,300 feet) tall, running the length of the image.
"We don't know what set off these landslides," says Patrick Russell of the University of Berne, Switzerland, a HiRISE team collaborator. "We plan to take more images of the site through the changing Martian seasons to see if this kind of avalanche happens all year or is restricted to early spring."