NASA has shared an image of an avalanche on Mars, which takes place each spring as the Sun shines on the North Pole of Mars, where north polar layered deposits of ice are located. The warmth from the Sun then results in the ice getting destabilised, and it breaks loose, resulting in the avalanche. But the avalanche is a lot more colourful on Mars as one can see in the image above.
The Mar avalanche was observed by the HiRISE instrument, which is aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter back in 2005, which entered the red planet’s orbit back in 2006. The spacecraft is still in operation.
According to NASA’s description of the image, “when the falling ice reaches the bottom of the more than 500-meter (1600-foot) tall cliff face, the blocks kick up a cloud of dust. The layers beneath are different colours and textures depending on the amount of dust mixed with ice.”
The photo is in collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL) and the University of Arizona, which operates the HiRISE camera instrument. The image was posted on September 3 by NASA, but originally taken on May 29, 2019.
NASA has shared similar images of avalanches on Mars in the past. It has posted images back in 2008 as well, where it had managed to capture close to four Martian avalanches in action. Once again these images were taken from the HiRISE camera. At that time, NASA had noted that more ice than dust probably accounted for the material that fell from upper portion.
Recently, NASA shared a study stating that Mars might have had vast oceans and a thick atmosphere like Earth in the past. According to NASA, while Mars might be cold and inhospitable desert right now, the features like dry riverbeds and minerals present on the surface indicate the presence of liquid water.
Thus there is a possibility that once upon a time, Mars had a thick atmosphere that retained enough heat for liquid water, which is necessary for life as well. The new paper looks at measuring the versions of isotopes of oxygen in order to determine how thick the atmosphere was on Mars.