Astronomy Picture of the Day
May 2, 2014

Early Summer in Olympia Undae
Early Summer in Olympia Undae

Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

Olympia Undae is a large Field of Sand Dunes surrounding the North Polar Ice Cap of Mars. Because of the High Latitude of the Dunes, they are covered with Water and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Frost for the whole WinterSpringtime and part of Summer as well (remember that during the Wintertime the Dunes are also poorly illuminated). Said that, it comes natural to understand that these Dunes are are best viewed during Summertime (from mid, to late Summer, to be more precise), when some of their most obvious Features - such as the Ripples that form on the Dunes' Surface - can be seen in detail.

In this sub-image, taken by the NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on April, 9, 2014, we can see the Dunes in the Early Martian Summer. The Dark (Gray, with Reddish nuances here) Material visible here is the Sand that makes up the Dunes. Between them, Bright Bedrock as well as some lingering Patches of Frost (White-colored) that has not yet sublimated, are also well visible. If you look carefully, you will be able to see small Ripples that formed on the Dunes' Flat Surfaces, as well as Bright so-called "Inter-Dune Areas".

This specific area has been viewed several times by HiRISE, so NASA was able to compare this image to other past ones (from about 2 years ago); the most obvious difference between these images was simply found in the Illumination, which was much better in the AD 2012 (it is possible to say so once it has been noticed that the 2012 images showed much finer details). However, and despite that beforementioned difference, several changes in the Boundaries of the Sand and Ripple positions were also found, and this last circumstance showed - and proved - that (the Dominant and very strong North Polar) Winds, perhaps assisted by the Sublimation of the Frost that covers most of the Dunes (an event, the latter, that actually contributes in loosening Sand), are continuously modifying the Landforms of Olympia Undae, from one year to another.

Mars Local Time: 13:52 (Early Afternoon)
Coord. (centered): 81,633° North Lat. and 178,830° East Long.
Spacecraft altitude: 321,8 Km (such as about 199,837 miles)
Original image scale range: 32,2 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binningso objects ~ 97 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale: 25 cm/pixel
Emission Angle: 17,9°
Phase Angle: 8,0°
Solar Incidence Angle: 60° (meaning that the Sun was about 30° above the Local Horizon at the time the picture was taken)
Solar Longitude: 113,9° (Northern Summer - Southern Winter)
Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Additional process. and coloring: Lunar Explorer Italia

This picture (which is a NASA - Original Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter False Colors and NON Map-Projected sub-frame identified by the serial n. ESP_036099_2615-1) has been additionally processed, magnified to aid the visibility of the details, contrast enhanced, Gamma corrected, and then re-colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and then looked down, towards the Surface of Mars), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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