ESA’s Mars Express captures a region where Martian sand dunes meet polar ice

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft has captured a new image that shows an interesting region on Mars where Martian sand dunes meet the layers of dusty ice covering the planet’s north pole.

Sand dunes meet dusty ice at Mars’ north pole
Sand dunes meet dusty ice at Mars’ north pole. (Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

The image marks the boundary between Olympia Planum (to the left), the vast dune field surrounding the north polar region, and Planum Boreum (to the right), the north polar region.

A broader view of Olympia Planum and Planum Boreum
A broader view of Olympia Planum and Planum Boreum. (Image credit: NASA/MGS/MOLA Science Team)

Planum Boreum is mostly covered with layers of fine dust and water ice. These layers are several kilometers thick and stretch out for around 1000 km.

According to the statement of ESA:

“Each layer holds valuable information about Mars’s history, telling the story of how the planet’s climate has changed over the past few million years.”

In Martian winter, a thin cap of dry ice (carbon dioxide ice) of a couple of meters in width accumulates above the layers of fine dust and water ice. This cap completely disappears into the atmosphere each Martian summer.

The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) of the Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since 2003, captured these images on April 14, 2023, and ESA released these images on February 28, 2024.

Mars Express is Europe’s first mission to the Red Planet. The goals of the mission are to capture the Martian surface at high resolution, produce a map of the mineral composition of the Martian surface, trace the history of water across the planet, and study the Martian atmosphere and climate.

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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