This broad field of barchan sand dunes – dunes with crescent shapes – in the Olympia Undae region near Mars’ northern polar cap was imaged by NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. The image, showing a small segment of the dune field, was taken during summer when the surface was free of frost. The dunes cover an area of some 470,000 square kilometres (181,000 square miles), larger than the U.S. state of California, and surround about a quarter of the northern polar cap. It is the most expansive continuous field of dunes on Mars.
Mars’ gullies may be formed by dry ice processes rather than flowing liquid water, as previously thought. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by two French scientists published in Nature Geoscience. They show that, during Martian late winter and spring, underneath the seasonal CO2 ice layer heated by the Sun, intense gas fluxes can induce gas-lubricated debris flows which look like water-sculpted gullies on Earth.