From: LARRY KLAES (ljk4_at_msn.com)
Date: Mon Mar 03 2008 - 11:03:25 PST
>From: "NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory" <info_at_jpl.nasa.gov>
>Subject: NASA Spacecraft Photographs Avalanches on Mars
>Date: Mon, 03 Mar 2008 10:53:41 -0800
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>Guy Webster 818-354-6278
>Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
>Lori Stiles 520-626-4402
>University of Arizona, Tucson
>NEWS RELEASE: 2008-036 March 3, 2008
>NASA Spacecraft Photographs Avalanches on Mars
>Pasadena, Calif. - A NASA spacecraft in orbit around Mars has taken the
>first ever image
>of active avalanches near the Red Planet's north pole. The image shows tan
>billowing away from the foot of a towering slope, where ice and dust have
>The High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars
>Orbiter took the photograph Feb. 19. It is one of approximately 2,400
>being released today.
>Ingrid Daubar Spitale of the University of Arizona, Tucson, who works on
>camera and has studied hundreds of HiRISE images, was the first person to
>avalanches. "It really surprised me," she said. "It's great to see
>something so dynamic on
>Mars. A lot of what we see there hasn't changed for millions of years."
>The camera is looking repeatedly at selected places on Mars to track
>However, the main target of the Feb. 19 image was not the steep slope.
>"We were checking for springtime changes in the carbon-dioxide frost
>covering a dune
>field, and finding the avalanches was completely serendipitous," said
>deputy principal investigator for HiRISE, at NASA's Jet Propulsion
>The full image reveals features as small as a desk in a strip of terrain 6
>miles) wide and more than 10 times that long, at 84 degrees north latitude.
>known to be rich in water ice make up the face of a steep slope more than
>(2,300 feet) tall, running the length of the image.
>"We don't know what set off these landslides," said Patrick Russell of the
>Berne, Switzerland, a HiRISE team collaborator. "We plan to take more
>images of the
>site through the changing Martian seasons to see if this kind of avalanche
>year or is restricted to early spring."
>More ice than dust probably makes up the material that fell from the upper
>portion of the
>scarp. Imaging of the site during coming months will track any changes in
>deposit at the base of the slope. That will help researchers estimate what
>proportion is ice.
>"If blocks of ice broke loose and fell, we expect the water in them will be
>solid to gas," Russell said. "We'll be watching to see if blocks and other
>debris shrink in
>size. What we learn could give us a better understanding of one part of the
>water cycle on
>Another notable HiRISE image released today shows a blue crescent Earth and
>as seen by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The west coast of South America
>in the photo. Still other images allow viewers to explore a wide variety of
>terrains, such as dramatic canyons and rhythmic patterns of sand dunes.
>The camera is one of six science instruments on the orbiter. The spacecraft
>in March 2006 and has returned more data than all other current and past
>"Our Mars program is the envy of the world," said Alan Stern, associate
>NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. "We plan to launch a total
>more missions in the next decade, beginning with the Mars Science Lab rover
>and a Mars Aeronomy Scout mission in 2011."
>The avalanche image, other selected images, and additional information
>about the Mars
>Reconnaissance Orbiter are online at http://www.nasa.gov/mro . All the
>and previously posted images from the High Resolution Imaging Science
>available online at http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu .
>The MRO mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate,
>Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, Colo., is the prime
>the project and built the spacecraft. The University of Arizona operates
>Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, which was built by Ball
>Technology Corp., Boulder, Colo.
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