One Of NASA's Oldest Mars Spacecraft Spies A Dusty, Dark Avalanche

We've all seen videos and pictures of avalanches, at least ones that happen on Earth. Though they happen in many places, they're all the same: huge amounts of some material breaks free from a tall structure, causing a cascading effect in which massive amounts of the material roll downward. This is often associated with huge amounts of snow, but can involve things like ice and rock, as well. Thanks to NASA, we know what this kind of event looks like on Mars.

NASA periodically highlights images that are exceptionally notable — the ones that stand out from the crowd, revealing things about our planet and the wider universe around us. Many of these images are of Mars, where NASA currently has multiple rovers with another on the way, as well as its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The MRO is one of the oldest spacecraft NASA has operating at Mars; unlike the rovers, which are on the surface, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is orbiting the planet, peering downward with multiple camera tools to observe the atmosphere, landscape, and phenomena that occur on it. MRO has provided us with many stunning images, including one of a dust devil snaking across the surface.

NASA has highlighted another image from MRO, one that features a dark, dusty avalanche. Though the avalanche was caused by ice breaking free and tumbling down, the planet's surface is quite dusty and a huge amount of that dust was kicked up by the falling ice, causing what appears to be a rolling dust plume on the rocky Martian land.

This avalanche happened on May 29, 2019, and was captured using MRO's Hi-RISE camera, a high-resolution instrument capable of capturing high-quality, zoomed-in images. The avalanche rolled down a cliff that spanned 1,640ft on the Martian north pole. The image marks a notable achievement for MRO — it's 15th anniversary. NASA provides a high-resolution version of the image on its website here.