Another dose of Martian awesome

By Phil Plait | January 11, 2010 7:00 am

If someone woke me out of a sound sleep and forced me at gunpoint to say which is my favorite camera in the solar system, they’d probably have to shoot me. But I think that HiRISE onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter would be in the top three. And it’s pictures like this one that put it there:


[Click to get to greatly embiggened pictures.]

That is not a closeup of my chin before I shave. It’s Mars, a dune field in the far north; at latitude 83.5° to be precise, less than 400 km (240 miles) from the north pole. The eternal Martian wind blows the heavy sand into dunes, and you can see the hummocks and ripples from this across the image. The sand on Mars is from basalt, which is a darkish gray color. The red comes from much smaller dust particles which settle everywhere.

But what are those weird tendril thingies?

In the Martian winter, carbon dioxide freezes out of the air (and you thought it was cold where you are). In the summer, that CO2 sublimates; that is, turns directly from a solid to a gas. When that happens the sand gets disturbed, and falls down the slopes in little channels, which spreads out when it hits the bottom. But this disturbs the red dust, too, which flows with the sand. When it’s all done, you get those feathery tendrils. Note that at the tendril tips, you see blotches of red; that’s probably from the lighter dust billowing a bit before settling down.

hirise_avalancheNow, you might think I’m making this all up. How do we know this stuff is flowing downhill like that? Ah, because in this picture we’ve caught it in the act! In this image, a closeup of a region just to the left of center of the big image, you can actually see the cloud of dust from an avalanche as it occurs.

Oh, baby. The cloud is only a few dozen meters across, and can’t be more than a few seconds old.

I love stuff like this. I tend to think of Mars as a stiff, still, unchanging place, but then HiRISE goes and slaps me in the face with something like this. Mind you, this is an avalanche. On another planet. Caught as it happened.

Awe. Some.

We’ve seen this before on Mars, but it’s still shocking and amazing. I can imagine some future settlers on the Red Planet, dealing with the lack of air, bitter cold, dust in all the machinery, radiation hazards from the Sun. And, apparently, they’ll have to dodge landslides too. It’ll be a tough life for sure… but then, I look at pictures like this and think it would be worth it, just to stand on the surface of another world and be able to simply look around.

If we can see this kind of thing from space, with robotic probes, what will humans see when they go there and can kick over some rocks?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: avalanche, HiRISE, Mars, MRO

Comments (120)

  1. R.W. Thomas

    What a beautiful way to start off the day. :)

  2. That’s awesome. A great new desktop image to start my Monday!

  3. StevoR

    That is, indeed, awe-inspiring. 8)

    Its also cool to think we’ve still got the two Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit & Opportunity still alive down there roaming the russet sands of Mars at ground level so many years after their initial 90 day “warrantied” lifespan expired. 😉

    Ain’t science just superluminous! (I.e. beyond mere brilliance!) 😀

    Thinking martian, do I recall hearing somewhere that theyre going to try and get a signal back from the Phoenix lander & try to revive it? When is that scheduled to happen?

  4. Jya Jar Binks Killer

    Am I the only one thinking this looks like Tatooine & that scene (from the original Star Wars movie) with the bones of that giant monster thingy lying in the sand here?

    I know the Martian sand is orange whereas Tatooine’s sand was yellow but still .. 😉

    Also – & again this could just be me but – does that dust cloud resemble (with sufficient imagination) a martian bigfoot or even mammoth to anyone else? 😉

  5. Asimov Fan

    ^ Also – & again this could just be me but – does that dust cloud resemble (with sufficient imagination) a martian bigfoot or even mammoth to anyone else?

    Maybe if you squint hard enough … 😉

    Imaginary mammoths on Mars eh? That reminds me of Stephen Baxter’s ‘Mammoth trilogy’ esp. ‘Icebones’ which features woolly mammoths let loose on a – terraformed but still alien – Mars. It’s a good, fairly hard~ish SF novel even if it’s premise is somewhat surreal.

    Great images there BA – thankyou for sharing them with us. :-)

  6. chas, PE SE

    You sure that’s Mars? Looks to me like the Indioana Dunes National Lakeshore, with the south end of Lake Michigan just out of the frame, and Really Wierd scrub brush sprouting.

  7. Abby

    This image gives me chills – in a good way!

  8. Charlie Young

    First thought was, ” Trees on Mars?”, then I had a closer look at the photo. That is truly amazing and cool.

    I bet walking on Mars will be like a high desert trek, except bitter -100C cold, windy as all get out, and unbreathable air.

  9. Daniel J. Andrews

    Speaking of Stephen Baxter (#5 Asimov Fan), I read his Manifold series a couple of years back. I’m not sure what you meant by “hard-ish SF novel” , but that would be the description I give to these books. I wasn’t sure how the different stories fit together till the last book, and suddenly it all became clear. He’s not your average SF writer. Somewhat surreal is a good descriptor.

    Back on topic and talking of surreal this picture is great. Without a sense of scale it’s hard to tell whether these are sand dunes or Phil’s whiskers. Really cool (the pic, not Phil’s whiskers)!

  10. PG

    Although awesome, I can never tell which way is “downhill” in images like these.

  11. RAF

    Wonder how long it will take for the yahoo’s to twist this into something it isn’t?

  12. The other Ken

    It’s an image of Our Savior Jesus Christ!

    Or his whiskers anyhow. Not Phil’s.


  13. Zucchi

    Wow! I understand the explanation, but after staring at the picture, I still want to see weird alien trees.

  14. Gary Ansorge

    I just want to ski Mons Olympus. Somehow, the idea of a downhill run of 30 KM is very enticing.
    Unfortunately, it appears there is just too little H2O in the Martian atmosphere to make snow on the mountain. How could we,,,oh heck. I guess we need to drop about 100,000 water bearing comets on Mars.

    As I recall, surface atmospheric pressure on Mars is about equivalent to Earths at an altitude of 100,000 feet. We really need to thicken that up a bit(for the skiing, you know).

    Great pics.

    Gary 7

  15. Benny

    So nice, but guys… those are plants… don’t believe what nasa wants you to think, or scientists want you to thing, mars is not a dead planet. Thos are just small plants… long live life in the universe!!!

  16. Chris

    That does look like a sub tropical vista there. Cool.

  17. George N

    Those maroon thingys are actually some Martian’s barcode for ” I’ll have a pizza to go and no anchovies.”

  18. I love how you never quite get used to this stuff, and how that sense of wonder can get even me excited about something like this. It’s things like this that remind me what a truly great spokesman for science you are.

  19. I agree that the photograph is both lovely and super-cool, but I’m not sure Mars is the ideal vacation spot. Especially after reading this, what with the landslides and precipitation of CO2 and all, I’m thinking about going to Costa Rica instead.

  20. Denis B

    Sorry for duplication…

  21. Denis B

    “If we can see this kind of thing from space, with robotic probes, what will humans see when they go there and can kick over some rocks?”

    These are rare and beautiful events and we observe them thanks to the specific capabilities of robotic probes. Humans on Mars would likely never see anything like it. I would say: this speaks for sending more probes, not humans. We could send hundreds of probes to many places for years of work for the price of sending a couple of humans to one place for a few days.

  22. In the Martian winter, carbon dioxide freezes out of the air (and you thought it was cold where you are).

    One of my favorite lines in SF is from the novel Fallen Angels, in which two people who were born and raised in orbit have crashed on Earth. As they assess the damage, one of them says, “At least we don’t need to worry about oxygen: there’s enough for seven billion people. And it never gets cold on Earth — okay, cold enough to freeze water, but not carbon dioxide.”

  23. skylyre

    Well that’s just what I needed right now! That’s a nice perk for the long afternoon ahead.

    Obviously Mars was created by an intelligent designer so that I could have awesome desktop images. Obviously.

  24. Benny (#15): if you’re going to post antiscience like that, at least get your adjectives straight: those “small” planets would be dozens if not hundreds of meters long.

  25. Mike

    A little part of me inside keeps wanting to see that in 3D. When that happens, the dark areas pop out and look like they’re rising out of the surface.. like spines, perhaps a kind of Martian tree. :O

    Of course the ones which point in the opposite direction defeat the illusion, so I just don’t look at them. 😉

  26. Brian Mingus

    @Phil(24), I think he meant plants. He is defending the theory that this is evidence of life on mars. And that we’ve found some big ass plants.

    “So nice, but guys… those are plants… don’t believe what nasa wants you to think, or scientists want you to thing, mars is not a dead planet. Thos are just small plants… long live life in the universe!!!”

  27. Apparently Benny needed to get his troll on.

    This image is amazing and beautiful.

    @#21 We could have just sent probes to the Moon, but there is something different about knowing that we as a species have placed feet upon a foreign world. I would happily pay my taxes to put humans on Martian soil. We have to do this sort of stuff so that we figure out the best way for humans to travel around in space. It’s a very important step for future colonization efforts. We can’t stay on this one rock forever.

  28. Sagebrush discovered on Mars!

    8. Charlie Young Says: “I bet walking on Mars will be like a high desert trek, except bitter -100C cold, windy as all get out, and unbreathable air.”

    It may be windy, but you wouldn’t feel much force from it, not with a surface pressure of <10 mBar. Then again, dynamic pressure is the density multiplied by the velocity squared. Even at that pressure, a 200 Km/hr breeze will push something over. Plus, the air is perfectly breathable, just not life sustaining. You'll probably die of hypoxia before your trachea freezes.

    14. Gary Ansorge Says: "As I recall, surface atmospheric pressure on Mars is about equivalent to Earth's at an altitude of 100,000 feet."

    Closer to 110,000 ft. (34,000 m). At least that's where the pressures match. The other properties are different because the atmosphere is mostly CO2 where Earth's is mostly N2. The team at Aurora Flight Sciences in Virginia had to do a lot of fiddling with this when designing their "ARES" rocket powered glider. They tested a 1/2 scale prototype by hoisting it up to 110,000 ft. on a balloon and releasing it. This simulated being dropped out of the aeroshell after atmosphere entry. The airplane had to stablize, unfold its wings and start gliding, all before dropping 10,000 feet (3,000 m), since that's where the theoretical "ground" was. The prototype had to be exceedingly light to keep the wing loading as low as it would be on Mars (with its 1/3 g). They have a (much edited) video of the flight at:

    The chief designer was Bob Parks, an alumnus of the MIT Rocket Society (as is Aurora founder and CEO John Langford), and the designer of the "Phoenix" rocket glider (for those of you in the hobby):

    One last trivia bit about the Martian atmosphere. Since the gravity is lower on Mars, the atmospheric density doesn't drop as fast with altitude. There is a crossover point (I forget the actual altitude at the moment) after which the Martian atmosphere is actually denser than Earth's (if "denser" is the right term for something that's nearly the vacuum of space).

    – Jack

  29. 24. Phil Plait Says: “Benny (#15): if you’re going to post antiscience like that, at least get your adjectives straight: those “small” planets would be dozens if not hundreds of meters long.”

    I guess my troll sense must need recalibrating. I thought he was just kidding around like everyone else on this thread.

    – Jack

  30. Marc Savoy

    That is not a closeup of my chin before I shave. lol

  31. 17. George N Says:

    Those maroon thingys are actually some Martian’s barcode for ” I’ll have a pizza to go and no anchovies.”

    No anchovies? You’ve got the wrong man, I spell my name Danger…


  32. John Swindle

    I, too, took Benny’s post as a jest. Without a smiley, who knows?

    We have often encountered the notion that our brains are “hardwired” to recognise human faces, and to imagine them where they are not. I wonder if that might hold true for other visual input. I can’t help but see all manner of familiar things in the image that we KNOW are not there. Foot paths and scrubby plants, for instance.

  33. mike burkhart

    Lets face Mars is strange and not like Earth but thats what makes it interesting I only want to clime Olympus Mons it should be easy in the low gravity my favorite novel about mars is the Martian Croncles I frist read in my senior year in high school I know the science is bad in the stories I still enjoyed them

  34. Ok… This is an Amazing Photo! But… It’s just screaming out for a MacDonalds in that central plain.

  35. Flavio

    I. want. to go. there.

    Strap me on the first experimental rocket on a semi-suicidal mission, ’cause I can’t wait. I mean it.

  36. DWM

    Well, you’ve done it again!! Made science interesting and understandable to the common person. Thank you. I just watched Dr Who-Waters of Mars….I know — pure sci-fi ; but they must get their ideas from ‘somewhere’. ! Plus, I believe it’s OK to watch scy-fy as long as you don’t start quoting it as truth. Which is were you come in….keeping us on the path of knowledge [which is so Awe. Some. itself] TaDa!!

  37. Jeffersonian

    Ok, I understand some of this and I know a few things about the properties of CO2. But, can someone esplaining to me:

    “carbon dioxide freezes out of the air. In the summer, that CO2 sublimates”

    *Wouldn’t sublimation infer that the gas is escaping into the air? If it’s already in the air, where would it be sublimating toward?

    *If it’s freezing out of the air, why does it attach itself to the surface in this pattern? Why is it in (relatively) straight lines?

    *What action cause the CO2 tendrils to grow upward (not just the addition of more CO2, but, in opposition to gravity)?

    @Gary – not steep enough. A day of poling.

  38. Irving P. Malward

    I don’t like it.

  39. Pathfinder's Airbag

    I’m with Dennis B (#21): Yay for the robotic probes, and let’s have more of ’em! For a fraction of the cost and risk of sending people, with their limited skills and limited perceptions, we can send a fleet of rolling, hopping, orbiting observers that can do chemistry and geology and physics along with their photography. Yeah, we lose the goose-bumpy people-in-space yummy feeling, but is that really the point of space exploration? The scientific objective can be served better, more cheaply, and with no risk to human life. Ultimately, robotic explorers are better for the space program too: fewer resources spent on worrying about how to shield people from radiation abd keep ’em aired and watered and fed, when none of those things are at all necessary to getting the science done on site. I love those little robot guys.

  40. Flavio


    Phil just means that CO2 freezes solid in winter and sublimates in summer, without a liquid transition. The dark stripes are caused by bits of dusty material dislodging from the dunes’ top as CO2 sublimates (like avalanches on earth happen when snow becomes loose as temps rise) and falling downhill, leaving a mark behind them.

  41. These are amazing – I showed them to my kids and they were flabbergasted! It looks very much like a beach after a storm, with the dunes disturbed and beach grass all scattered. It took quite a lot of convincing to make my son realize this amazing picture is from MARS! Thanks, Phil, for highlighting these great images and sharing them with us. I love how surprising these constantly are! Keep up the great work passing on great info for all of us!

  42. DenverAstro

    Im getting sick and tired of you lying to your readers all the time. You know as well as I do that those are the Holy Tendrils of the Omnipotant Flying Spagetti Monster. You need to start facing reality instead of spreading those sciencey, logic based, so-called explanations. And you thought there was no divine intervention in the creation of this solar system…HA I say! :)

  43. Thanks for the explanation… without it I may have thought them to be alien structures.

  44. For a while I’ve been wondering if one of the HiRISE images on Google Mars shows dust clouds from a Marsslide. Check out the last four pictures on this post:

  45. Michael

    It’s not going to happen, even in our grandchildren’s lifetimes. A Mars mission will cost over $4 trillion, and there are too many problems on Earth that could be solved with that kind of money. Plus our gov’t just can’t afford it. Not to mention that the risks to human safety on such a mission are huge, and they also haven’t figured out how to bring the humans back. We will be sending robotic probes to Mars for the foreseeable future.

  46. Jack

    You should use more memes, Phil. The children at fark may not think this article is as awesome as the other 9001 articles you get greenlit every week.

  47. Crudely Wrott

    @#17, where George N. says,

    Those maroon thingys are actually some Martian’s barcode for ” I’ll have a pizza to go and no anchovies.”

    Not if you live in Sector R you won’t. And shouldn’t we be calling you “George L? I’m sure that John Paradox would back me up on that.

    Phil, the pictures that we are becoming used to these days are a long way from the first fly-by snap shots, eh?

    Mars beckons . . . like a Siren in the sky . . . whispering, calling . . . promising nothing . . . promising everything.

  48. negative ned

    “If we can see this kind of thing from space, with robotic probes, what will humans see when they go there and can kick over some rocks?”

    Not a gottam thing. Because we’ll never go.

  49. Claire

    Amazing, indeed. Not something I could imagine in my wildest dreams- very cool. What size area does this picture cover, ballparky-wise? I’m not smart enough to figure it out from the pixels and resolution.

  50. mike burkhart

    By the way my favorte story from the Martian Chronicles is the one about the Astronauts who land on Mars and the Martians put them into an insane asylum for Martians who think the’re form Earth (the Martians think theres no life on Earth because theres to munch oxygen in Earths atmospher) it like we say we come in peace and they bring the strightjackets you know Captian Kirk never had these problems.

  51. Don

    I wish NASA would expand it’s reach into backing solar power for a while rather this this stuff. It’s interesting, but we have some terrestrial problems that branch of our government could be helping us fix.

  52. Steve J

    It’s obviously a close-up of Argus’s face. Just wait until he opens all his eyes.

  53. Jeffersonian

    OK, so, they ARE falling down, toward gravitational pull, but some still appear to do the opposite. maybe it;s just this picture: it’s hard to tell which are dunes and which are troughs?

    Also, why causes the C02 to freeze into this pattern in the first place?
    I mean, if the atmosphere is the source of the C02, then why this particular dispersion?

  54. xznofile

    I hate to admit I’m stupid, but I read the explanation of the tendrils several times & it don’t got no kernel: “When it’s all done(?), you get those feathery tendrils” seems to require the technical coherence of the description should be taken on faith. Can someone please give me a hint how sand falling downhill can produce the bushy things?
    If the tendrils are frozen vents, left when the sand blows away, what’s holding them together? they don’t erode, and there’s tons of old ones laying around like sand spice. Those puffs of sand 2 seconds old look more like releases of hallucinogenic Bantha spores that will cause astronauts to become disoriented and fall into the vagina like structures where their pressure suit wrapped bones will remain entombed for eternity. (tell Freud I said hi)(but actually I said Bua-hahahaa …!)

  55. “The Avalanche on Mars!” – coming soon to a theater near you; or more likely the SyFy channel.

  56. Don, solar power is something that NASA doesn’t need to concentrate on. That’s for the energy sector, which is a completely different government department. NASA should be doing more of these missions.

  57. dannyyyyyyy

    When I go to mars I’m gonna have my picture taken in front of dem tendrils.

  58. PJT

    @all – nothing I would like more than to “wadi bash” Mad Max style all over this amazing image – however as I age and my dreams start to conform to the realities of “reality” I am left with a tinge of regret every time I spy these images,
    The knowledge that we are already there in another form (rovers,hubbles,HiRISE,probes……drones ) leads me to belive that only the senses of HomoSapien Mk ll will ever experience this amazing space.
    The drive towards complexity I fear will – for homo-sapiens end with the relisation that sending biology into space is not our best bet.

    Think im going to puke……………… or cry

    Somebody slap me with counter logic please.

  59. aljuk

    Very, very cool.

  60. Flavio

    When will people stop saying NASA’s money should be spent on something else? They ALREADY are for the most part!
    Was the Apollo missions’ drive just due to cold war? Is there any excitement left for pure exploration?

  61. Bryan Feir


    Let’s see if I can explain the process; I’ll admit the initial description skimmed a bit.
    – In the winter, CO2 freezes into solid ice.
    – Wind blows black sand on top of the ice, and red dust settles on top of the sand.
    – In the summer, the CO2 sublimates back into the atmosphere.
    – The sand and dust collapses back down since what it was sitting on went away, causing an avalanche as the sand rolls down the hill.
    – This knocks the light dust away, leaving a black trail of cleared sand with scattered red dust around it.
    The bushiness comes from the way you get multiple little avalanches starting and rolling down the same hill in mostly but not exactly the same direction, and from the way the dust can hang in the air and settle back down later and further out.

    You can actually see similar effects on Earth where you have multiple levels of granularity in sand; though on Earth the process is more likely to start with the sand clumping together because of water, and then collapsing and rolling down the hill once it dries out.

  62. CR

    I keep forgetting that the HiRISE pics are looking basically straight down at the surface of Mars. To my initial glance of this pic–heck, even as I still look at it after SEVERAL viewings–it looks like an oblique view of the landscape, as if flying above the ground in an airplane. The avalanche tendrils really do look like some type of vegetation reaching upward. Standing on my head to view it helps reduce the effect somewhat, but it’s really difficult to fight a lifetime of visual bias! (My wife thought it looked like a close-up of diseased skin, by the way!)

    Mars. Deadlier to us than anyplace on Earth, yet so inviting for the sake of seeing what else is there!

  63. Jeffersonian

    Thanx Bryan Feir for explaining the process!

    I love this shot and the puzzles presented (to me, anyway)
    The gap I still have, is,

    *why is the staining so directional? Why isn’t is more equally dispersed? I would guess wind was the extra factor, but (assuming this is a mostly overhead view), they aren’t collapsing in just a leeward direction. If it’s a function, mostly, of gravity, shouldn’t they just topple rather than delineate?

    *The CO2 is sublimating everywhere (when it warms to the correct temperature range) but the staining effect appears to happen in various locales. Wouldn’t it only happen from the crest of the steeper dunes?

  64. some slick

    @cr I cannot, cannot see this properly, my brain will not allow me to view this as a “straight down” shot. The only part of the image that works in my brain is top middle, where the tendrils are pointing downward.

    Thank you for your comment, it helped me realize I wasn’t the only one with that problem.

  65. Adam V.

    The images aren’t blurry enough to be of anything related to bigfoot, martian or otherwise…

  66. Strahlungsamt

    I bet Hoagland is scrutinizing this one with a magnifying glass right now to see what NASA’s hiding.

    Well, I can see some little cars and tire tracks already. :)

  67. Bone

    I wish they would put a graphic scale on the photos or at least be more descriptive of how tall those tendrils are…

  68. Jim Jones

    While I find the changing landscapes of Mars fascinating, your imagery was even better. Keep up the good work!

  69. xznofile

    Bryan Feir@65:
    thanks Brian, but that still sounds like the sand trails (bushy things ?) are 2D. You can actually see that the bushy things are protruding up like 3D sticks of coral. if they were made of sand stuck to dry ice, they should fall apart when the ice sublimates. There must be some kind of chemical/mineral metamorphosis that causes them to persist. Maybe organisms living on the gas emissions like deep sea smoker chimneys Or maybe wired is loading 2 different pictures to get opposing comments. do you see dark red/brown branch thingies sticking up in your pic? what are they?

  70. im gonna settle down on mars very soon

  71. xnofile, unless I’m missing the 3-D version of this photo, I have a feeling you’re falling prey to the Crater Illusion:

  72. Homer Simpson

    Mmmmmm! Strawberry ice cream with sprinkles………

  73. xznofile, try looking at the image upside down. That’s how it clicked in my brain that what looks like rounded hills are bowls, and the gaps that the tendrils appear to be growing up from are actually ridge lines.

  74. Charles Minus

    Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but my first thought on seeing this pic was, “Wow, giant mons venus galore.”

  75. Unique but its quite disgusting..

  76. tim rowledge

    The gap I still have, is,
    *why is the staining so directional? Why isn’t is more equally dispersed? I would guess wind was the extra factor, but (assuming this is a mostly overhead view), they aren’t collapsing in just a leeward direction. If it’s a function, mostly, of gravity, shouldn’t they just topple rather than delineate?

    I think you’re still labouring under the misapprehension that something tall and tower like is falling over. It isn’t.
    The CO2 sublimes – goes directly from frozen solid to gas – and leaves voids in the sand. Think of the way that you can get weird ‘foamy’ sand/gravel if it rains, freezes and then thaws. The voids in the sand collapse and trigger little avalanches. Avalanches go (pretty much) straight downhill. That’s why they seem to line up so much. If you have a long fairly straight dune and get a bunch of little avalanches you’d be surprised to find them going in different directions.

    Though experiment for you to run;
    imagine a sand dune.
    imagine snow settling on it.
    imagine more sand being blown over the snow-pack.
    imagine the snow melting very rapidly (snow can actually sublime on very dry days I think)
    imagine how the upper layer of sand will suddenly lack a means of support.
    imagine it sliding and rolling down the side of the dune.

    That’s kinda-sorta what happens

  77. A.Alaalas

    Phil, you’re going to have to kick over those Red Planet rocks on your own hook, I ain’t paying for it! Those robots deserve a pay raise.

  78. SoniaLaStrega

    So much for women being from Venus.

  79. Gyula

    Ez nagyon király, vazze!

  80. Paul Muad'Dib

    “…you can actually see the cloud of dust from an avalanche as it occurs.”

    That cloud of dust is actually worm-sign.

  81. Bryan Feir

    xznofile, Jeffersonian:

    The issue here is that the black marks aren’t physical objects, really. What they are, are trails where the light red dust has been knocked off the top of the darker black sand underneath. Presumably if another wind storm comes along, the dust will get scattered back over top of the sand and the marks will go away.

    This is just caused by sand rolling down the hill, sort of like the ‘snow rollers’ that Phil posted pictures of a while back. The sand on top gets dropped off of the disappearing dry ice, rolls down the hill under gravity because it already has some momentum, knocks away the red dust as it moves, and finally comes to a stop at the bottom of the hill leaving a trail of non-dusty hillside behind it. The only reason it looks so strange is that the dust on top and the sand underneath are different colours.

  82. Jeffersonian


    I think my problem in understanding the action is mostly perspective and also random.
    I get what the stains “are”, it just seems that it should be more random.

    Let’s me explain it a different way. The streaks appear in groupings. Within each grouping-set, the streaks all run the same direction. So, perhaps they are not triggered on the crest of a dune, but just below. Otherwise, it seems they would topple in random directions from a crest unless wind was a factor. But if wind were a factor, they would all trend leeward. So, maybe my problem (as it seems to be for several people) is one of perspective?

  83. Daniel Serodio

    Freaky image, these things look like eyelashes!

  84. Virgil Fritz

    Does anyone know how large an area this is? What is it’s size, In miles, kilometers, feet, meters, inches? I’ll take any of the above. Thank you, sincerely, Virgil.

  85. Rey T. Fox

    I see J’onn J’onnzz!

  86. Dave E.

    I don’t know about everybody else, but, I belive we will colonize mars someday. Who knows what technological advances we will make in the future. Mabye we will have a space elevator, who knows? Plus, once we send Arnold up there, and he blasts all the bad guys, then he’s just gonna turn on the martian reactor and melt the ice and make some oxygen. It’ll be fine, and I’ll just go up there and build my summer home :)

  87. Ahmed Ali

    Very beautiful image ….
    For I do not see any trees, just like extra deposits by the internal configurations of the planet and perhaps some of the outlying areas of any materials or gases formed by the atmosphere surrounding Mars.
    If only we can know the status of a good image in terms of the temperature of the atmosphere and the proportion of gases and surface structure to a depth of about ten meters

  88. Man, now I wanna visit Mars even more. Come on space-tech! Hurrrrrrry :)

  89. Great that even after 30 years there are still new and exciting images of Mars’ landscape. It does look like trees, but given our earth-centric thinking wouldn’t we always associate what we know with what we don’t?

  90. pikestaff

    Embiggend? did you mean enlarged?
    Anyway, strange indeed.

  91. Mark

    Where on Earth (or Mars I suppose) do you get the word “embiggened” from as in “Click to get greatly embiggened pictures” ? Whatever happened to the word enlarged ?

  92. Jon

    If the images were not vertical objects, ie. trees or other living forms, we would be able to see objects behind these images clearly. The effect here is similar to taking a photo with a grove of trees in the way. One cannot see through the trees but can see a lake, dune, etc partially. In other words, the author of this article is full of it. These are plants, trees, and they cast shadows as well. They are also recessed into the soil and grow towards the sun.

    These NASA people are the same individuals who claimed that Mars didn’t have a blue sky, then held a news conference with a huge Martian panorama showing blue sky. The scientists also claimed that water couldn’t be liquid on Mars until the Explorer had obvious drops of water on the landing gear. after melting the ice below.

    In other words, Mars is enigmatic, and not explained by pretending that photos show something they don’t. Funny that when Mars is shown with a blue sky, the colors look sharp, and there seems to be GREEN growth on the rocks. I cannot imagine why our scientists lie to us, but I suspect that if tiny Enceladus has water when it shouldn’t, then Mars has life, and the scientists know it does. How about the Martian Face, or other structures? Science tried to claim trick photography also…but their explanations are suspect at best.

    In a nutshell…there are trees on Mars, there is standing water on Mars, and there is LIFE on Mars. So, stop making fools of the public.

  93. I loved your videos.

  94. That image is acceptably amazing for a Wednesday morning.

  95. Trish

    So could these be likened to fractals from Mars?

  96. There’s an avalanche by some trees. The trees are leftover from an ecology torn to shreds in a planetwide disaster described by Velikovsky and others, within historical times. There was a complete environment with flora, fauna, and it seems, intelligent life. Some flora survived. It is likely there are also some species of insects (not to mention microbial life) that live in tree bark. We need landers and rovers to go right up to them, instead of the nonsense that these are some sort of CO-2 geysers, the latest NASA disinformation.

  97. Will Jones

    Have you read this article about the OTHER Martian “Trees”? –

  98. Notice that NASA will not send landers among the dunes for close up shots of these and other species of trees, Clarke’s “banyan” trees for example. Science is found where facts may be able to sustain an old and outdated paradigm. If a lander landed next to some obvious trees and could observe them from mere feet and yards, the science of NASA, such as it is, would be turned upside down. The latest rover, “Curiosity” shows NASA’s lack of curiosity. This all stems from the Robertson panel that to admit to any extraterrestrial life forms, even, protozoa, could start a revolution here on Earth, because protozoa eventually become reptiles, and mammals and us. What I find of great oddity in this image is the “shoveled sidewalk” at the bottom of the image, shaped like a question mark. Just how in all that’s holy was that formed, by another NASA CO2 geyser, perhaps?


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