Thursday, January 21, 2010
TREES ON MARS???
NASA orbiter photographs phenomenon that looks like trees... on the surface of Mars
* Staff Writer
* From: Herald Sun
* January 21, 2010 12:00AM
Trees on Mars
The dunes of Mars are covered in landslides debris, giving the appearance of outcrops of trees. Picture: NASA Source: Herald Sun
TREES growing on the Red Planet? What at first looks remarkably like groves of pine trees sprouting from rolling Martian hills covered in pink grass is actually an optical illusion.
The "trees" are trails of debris caused by landslides as Mars' spring season warms the planet's surface and generates ice melts.
The hills are sand dunes coated with a thin layer of frozen carbon dioxide.
One of the avalanches that cause the tree illusion has been caught in action in the image, just visible to the left of centre.
The bucolic but alien scene was captured by the most powerful camera sent to another planet.
The 65kg, $50 million camera is aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and is designed to view the planet's surface features in far greater detail - down to 30cm - than has previously been possible.
Scientists hope that the detail it captures will help studies of Martian channels and valleys and the planet's volcanic landforms.