Sand Dunes Snake Near Mars' North Pole (Photo) | 5/25/2019 | Mike Wall
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Rippling, dark-flecked sand dunes near Mars' north pole look like melting chocolate-chip ice cream in an image captured by the European-Russian Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft (TGO).

The photo, which TGO snapped with its Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS), shows some effects of springtime warming in the Red Planet's far north.

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"During winter in the polar regions, a thin layer of carbon dioxide ice covers the surface and then sublimates — turns directly from ice into vapor — with the first light of spring," European Space Agency (ESA) officials wrote about the image, which was taken May 25 but just released today (Sept. 16).

"In the dune fields, this springtime defrosting occurs from the bottom up, trapping gas between the ice and the sand," they added. "As the ice cracks, this gas is released violently and carries sand with it, forming the dark patches and streaks observed in this CaSSIS image."

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The newly released photo depicts U-shaped "barchan dunes," visible at lower right, meeting up and merging into "barchanoid ridges," ESA officials said.

Tips - Dunes - Point - Downwind - Officials

"The curved tips of the barchan dunes point downwind," the officials added in the same statement. "The transition from barchan to barchanoid dunes tells us that secondary winds also play a role in shaping...
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