NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Presently, it is autumn in the southern hemisphere of Mars. Sand dunes at high and middle latitudes are becoming cold and frosted. This frost, probably water ice, is persistent enough that it is still present around 2 p.m. in the afternoon, when Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) flies over these dune fields. This MGS Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image shows an intracrater dune field at 59.4°S, 158.9°W, as it appeared last week on 3 June 2004. In summer, these dunes would be very dark relative to the substrate on which they occur. In autumn, as shown here, they begin to accumulate frost that will last through the coming winter. Southern hemisphere winter will arrive around 20 September 2004. The image covers an area about 3 km (1.9 mi) across and is illuminated by sunlight from the upper left.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, California. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, California and Denver, Colorado.