Ice Spirals on the Red Planet: Mars Gorges Are Gorgeous

By Joseph Calamia | May 26, 2010 4:58 pm


That’s not cloud cover. It’s polar ice on Mars, about 600 miles across and covered with deep etchings. The dark valley on the right, named Chasma Boreale, is about the size of the Grand Canyon.

This riven Martian arctic was a mystery to scientists for over forty years.  But data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has given researchers some important clues to how the ice spirals formed. Their findings appear in two papers published in the journal Nature.

Data from Mars now points to both the canyon and spiral troughs being created and shaped primarily by wind. Rather than being cut into existing ice very recently, the features formed over millions of years as the ice sheet grew. By influencing wind patterns, the shape of underlying, older ice controlled where and how the features grew. [NASA]


This image was made using Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter data. A shaded-relief image, it shows clearly the pole’s gorges. Chasma Boreale is a mile deep in some places.

Related content:
Bad Astronomy: A marvelous night for a Moon (and Mars) dance
Bad Astonomy: Sand dunes march across Mars
Bad Astronomy: Mars craters reveal ice
80beats: Mars Rover Sets Endurance Record: Photos From Opportunity’s 6 Years On-Planet

Image1:  NASA/Caltech/JPL/E. DeJong/J. Craig/M. Stetson
Image2:  NASA/GSFC

  • admirer

    they really are gorgeous

  • Brian Too

    It looks like a brain. A Martian brain!

  • Mikey G

    Totally does Brian!

  • n

    What is made out of? Do they have any idea? That’ll be even more exciting news!

  • admirer

    almost pure ice. I saw a paper where they said maximum was 5% dust and 95% ice. Not Carbon dioxide ice but water-ice

  • kim

    The first thing I thought of when I saw this was a brain. Too much.

  • particle collider

    Does anyone know it’s rate of growth?

  • vempire

    I don’t know really that this happen is the sign of blessedness or badness for our universe system ,but it’s so cool to seen.

  • Jeffroar

    Looks like a brain? And the face on Mars looks like a face? Well, maybe the Martians, eons ago, made a huge face and a huge brain which, over time, has been significantly washed away by water, dust storms, etc., just like our Sphinx is slowly, slowly leaving us. These are the remains of what they left behind to prove they existed, knowing their planet was going bad. I LOVE MY THEORY!!

  • copppa

    It looks like one of earth’s hurricanes

  • Planet Mars

    Imagine the images if we could get a lander there.

  • http://icemanxmas.com1 ICEMAN

    You better believe that is true?

  • bitty

    i just want to know why when ever anyone comes up with proof of life on mars the pictures are so bad and fuzzy you cant make anything out really but if its a picture of an ordinary marsian rock or scene, its crystal clear….my personal favourites include the dinosaur roming around on mars, the statue of the bee man, and the dogs face, and of course who can go past the statue of the mermaid on a rock, while all the ice is frozen.

  • Planet Mars

    That ice is awe inspiring, I can’t imagine what it would be like there in person. Why did it take us so long to think Mars had water on the surface if we have these pictures? I wonder if Mars Missions have been moved up because of this.


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