Visit to icy sand dunes from Mars

Dune field in northern Mars: variety of textures at the bottom of the crater. Credit: Nasa / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona

A field of sand dunes occupies the icy crater of 5 kilometers in diameter shown above, located in the high latitudes of the northern plains of Mars. Some dunes have separated from the main course and appear to be climbing the crater’s slope along a gorge-like shape.

The surface of the main dune field is characterized by a series of polygonal patterns in dark tones. This may be the result of seasonal frost processes. Several of the steepest dune slopes, pointing in the direction of the wind, have narrow grooves that suggest the beginning of the formation of ravines.

The bottom of the crater contains a variety of textures, including lobed and striped patterns that indicate seasonal melt caused by sublimation of the ice. The wide downward movement of materials on the slopes of the crater opposite the dune field is superficially similar to ravines, except that they are generally not defined by distinct niches, channel cuts or small sediment dams. These are the trademarks of ravines in other parts of the planet.

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