Top Astronomy Photos of the Year

Bad Astronomy recently released its favorite 14 astronomy photos of the year. My personal favorite was the one more surprising to me, which upon first glance really does look like something you would see under a microscope, and not something on the surface of Mars.

Hirise Tendrils on Mars

What makes this image so bizarre, though, are the dark, parallel tendril-like features scattered throughout. What the heck are those? One clue is that they always seem to stretch downhill, as if something is flowing. Another can be found in the tendrils located left of center and down a bit: there's a fuzzy pink oval emanating from one of them. Under magnification, you can see it's a dust cloud... the debris raised up after an avalanche of sand on the Martian surface! Those tendrils are from the darker material under the pink sand. When dry ice under the surface warms up in the summer, it disturbs and dislodges the gray basaltic sand around it. This slides downhill, creating these weird, hair-like features.

via kottke

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