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Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

Frosty Dunes

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-1430, 12 April 2006

Medium-sized view of MGS MOC Picture of the Day, updated daily
NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

Today, the MOC Team celebrates the 45th anniversary of the first human flight into space, that of Yuri Gagarin on 12 April 1961, and the 25th anniversary of the first NASA Space Shuttle flight on 12 April 1981, by briefly pondering the wonders of our Solar System and the opportunities of the age in which we live. Although humans have not ventured to the Moon in more than 30 years, and have not yet gone to Mars, we can all go there through the eyes of our robotic explorers.

Mars, perhaps the most Earth-like (yet so very different!) planet in our star's system, is tilted on its axis by about 25°—not all that different than Earth's ~23.5°. Thus, Mars, like Earth, experiences a changing of seasons as the planet revolves around the Sun. At high latitudes in each hemisphere during autumn and winter, carbon dioxide frost accumulates on the surface.

This Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image shows dunes covered and delineated by seasonal frost in the north polar region of Mars. The winds responsible for the formation of these dunes blew primarily from the northwest (upper left), with additional influences from the north and northeast. During the late spring and summer seasons, these dunes would look much darker than their surroundings, but in this late winter image, the dunes and the plains on which they occur are all covered with carbon dioxide frost.

Location near: 78.4°N, 76.7°W
Image width: ~3 km (~1.9 mi)
Illumination from: lower left
Season: Northern Winter

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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.

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