Mars presently harbors no life that we know of, but it has the potential of becoming a new home for humans, in shielded habitats in the short run, or, if we manage to terraform it, out in the open for the long haul. But even dead as it is, the planet’s face is constantly changing, and thanks to the hardware now in place there, we’re capable of witnessing these changes.
In recent years, the rebirth of our planet’s space exploration efforts also fueled an increased interest in the study of the neighboring planet. More eyes are now looking in that direction, as Mars is, for now at least, the ultimate goal of our solar system expansion plans, and every little thing we’re capable of learning about it might have a huge impact on our future there.
What you’re looking at here is an image captured back in 2019 by the HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and recently brought back into focus by NASA and the University of Arizona.
It shows an area in the Arabia Terra region of the planet, a heavily cratered and eroded place. We don’t see those traits in this picture, but something more jellyfish-like, flowing lines interrupted to one side by a rather small impact crater.
For a long time, scientists have believed these slope streaks, common at the planet’s tropics and discovered as far back as 2008, had been caused but flowing water.
Further study though now points to them not having anything to do with water, but being in fact avalanches of dust. We’re told by the people better suited at analyzing these images the older slopes of the avalanche are shown here brighter than the surrounding terrain, while the darker streaks in the center are probably newer.
“These were the only changes spotted among the hundreds of streaks observed in the monitoring site, suggesting that new streak formation and fading take place on time scales of at least decades,” scientists say.