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Researchers spot a huge avalanche on Mars: HiRISE captures 65ft cascade of carbon dioxide scarring the red planet's surface

The Red Planet has once again caught the world’s imagination with an unbelievable new image of a storm at the planet’s North Pole. Intense avalanches such as this are common on Mars, mainly in the northern hemisphere during the Martian spring. But not like the snow of Earth’s avalanches, the ones on the Red Planet are made up of carbon dioxide frostiness – or simply dry ice - that generates frost at the planet’s poles. Throughout this time of year, Mars' North Pole warms, and the resulting thermal increase causes avalanches in the carbon dioxide frost. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter succeeded to capture the image in the North Polar coated deposits.

HiRISE monitors this region to study more about the timing and occurrence of the avalanches, and their connection to the evolution of ice on the flat ground above. The minor white cloud in front of the brick red cliff is possibly carbon dioxide frost dislocated from the layers above, caught in the act of flowing down the cliff. This material marks the frost-covered polar surface dark, illuminating the tracks of avalanches for Hirise to effortlessly see from orbit. It is bigger than it looks, more than 20 meters (65ft) across, and grounded on preceding examples it will possibly kick up clouds of dust when it hits the surface. Folks at University of Arizona, who released the image, wrote “The avalanches remind us, along with active sand dunes, dust devils, slope streaks and recurring slope lineae, that Mars is an active and dynamic planet,” 

The Carbon dioxide frost was first spotted on Mars in 2003 by scientists at the California Institute of Technology.

Most of the ice on Mars’s polar caps are made up of water ice, but carbon dioxide ice can be spotted in a thin coating on the surface.

Former astronaut, and Nasa administrator, John Grunsfeld said “Mars is not the dry arid planet that we thought of in the past and under certain circumstances we can say that liquid water has been found on Mars”

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