NASA shares breathtaking image of a wind-sculpted sea of blue dunes on Mars taken by the Odyssey orbiter

blue dunes on mars
A sea of dark dunes, sculpted by the wind into long lines, surrounds Mars’ northern polar cap.

  • NASA shared an image of dunes surrounding Mars’ northern polar cap.
  • The false-color image shows a sea of blue dunes and yellow wind-sculpted lines on the red planet.
  • The photo has been released to mark the 20th anniversary of the Mars Odyssey orbiter.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On Thursday, NASA released a stunning photo of a sea of dunes on Mars.

It also shows wind-sculpted lines surrounding Mars’ frosty northern polar cap.

The section captured in the shot represents an area that is 19 miles wide, NASA said. The sea of dunes, however, actually covers an area as large as Texas.

The photo is a false color image, meaning that the colors are representative of temperatures. Blue represents cooler climes, and the shades of yellow mark out “sun-warmed dunes,” the US space agency wrote.

Read more: Real-estate investors are already circling homes in the Texas border town where Elon Musk said there would be ‘several thousand’ jobs

The photo is made of a combination of images captured by the Thermal Emission Imaging System instrument on the Mars Odyssey orbiter, NASA wrote.

Captured during the period from December 2002 to November 2004, the breathtaking images have been released to mark the 20th anniversary of Odyssey.

The Mars Odyssey orbiter is a robotic spacecraft circling Mars that uses a thermal imager to detect evidence of water and ice on the planet.

It was launched in 2001, making it the longest-working Mars spacecraft in history.

Read the original article on Business Insider

What if the Earth spun sideways on its axis

Following is a transcript of the video.

Early in the history of our solar system, something mysteriously knocked Earth slightly off its axis. So today we tilt at 23.5 degrees. But what would happen if we tilted even more? What if Earth spun sideways on its axis? Well, it wouldn’t take long before utter chaos ensued.

One of the most important consequences of Earth’s axial tilt is the seasons. Seasons happen because the tilt points different parts of the planet toward the sun at different times of the year. But the tilt also means that different parts of the globe receive different amounts of sunlight during each season. And that’s where a more extreme tilt starts to cause problems. Right now, during the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, places far north, like Utqiagvik, Alaska, receive 24 hours of sunlight for 82 days straight. Because Earth is tilted far enough on its axis that as the planet rotates, Utqiagvik never leaves direct sunlight. On the other hand, the contiguous US receives a max of 17 hours a day, because after that it rotates out of daytime sunlight and into night. But if we tilted Earth’s axis even more, to 90 degrees, the US would get sunlight 24/7, around the clock, for months on end. And it’s not just the US; the entire Northern Hemisphere would be like this.

At first, animals would take advantage of the extra light to find and eat more food, just like Alaskan birds, which feed their chicks extra nutrition in the summer, resulting in faster-growing babies than their southern counterparts. And plant growth would explode since they get their energy directly from sunlight. Farms in northern Alaska, for example, grow cabbages the size of rottweilers in the summer.

But while animals and plants would thrive, humans wouldn’t. We evolved to be active during the day and sleep at night. But if we were exposed to unending sunlight, our brains would stop producing the hormone melatonin, which we need to sleep at night. And that could lead to sleep deprivation, depression, and, ultimately, a more severe, chronic version of these symptoms called seasonal affective disorder, which already affects 9% of Alaskans, compared to just 6% of the entire United States.

But that’s less of a worry than the floods. Temperatures at the North Pole would more than double, to 38 degrees Celsius from 15.5 degrees Celsius. That’s hotter than temperatures at the equator today. As a result, Greenland’s ice cap would melt, causing sea levels to rise by 7 meters, and flood nearly every coastal city on Earth. Say goodbye to New York, Copenhagen, and Tokyo. To make matters worse, the warmer seas would trigger stronger and more frequent hurricanes, which form when seawater evaporates at the surface.

And the weather wouldn’t get better when winter comes six months later. Out of reach of the sun’s direct beams for months at a time, the hemisphere would get colder than any winter on record. Swirls of frigid air, called a polar vortex, which are normally dissipated by warm air in the tropics, could travel all the way down to the equator. Imagine blizzards in Florida, Brazil, Kenya! And all those thriving plants, they’d die from a lack of sunlight. Agriculture would collapse as ecosystems crumble and mass extinctions pile up.

And there would be even more floods, because meanwhile, the Southern Hemisphere is getting toasty and the South Pole is home to 90% of the world’s ice. The constant sunlight would raise its temperature to 38 degrees Celsius from -28 degrees Celsius, melting the ice and raising sea levels by a whopping 61 meters. That’s almost as tall as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Greenland’s flood would look like a puddle in comparison.

So all in all, while a few extra hours in the summer sun would be nice, let’s leave the extra seasons to Alaska and be glad the Earth is tilted exactly as it is.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider