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In Terra Nova Bay, off the Scott Coast of Victoria Land, Antarctica, a large pocket of open water persists throughout most of the Southern Hemisphere winter, even while most of the rest of the Antarctic coastline is firmly embraced by the frozen Southern Ocean. This pocket of open water--a polynya--results from exceptionally strong winds that blow downslope from the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. These fierce katabatic winds drive the sea ice eastward. Since the dominant ice drift pattern in the area is northward, the Drygalski Ice Tongue prevents the bay from being re-populated with sea ice. This image of the Terra Nova Bay polynya was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite on October 16, 2007. Sea ice sits over the Ross Sea like a cracked and crumbling windshield. Blue-tinged glaciers flow down from the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. Although glaciers can appear blue because of melt water, they can also get that tint when the wind scours and polishes the ice surface. Given the strength of the katabatic winds along this part of the Antarctic coast, it is likely that the blue color of these glaciers is a result of their having been swept clean of snow. The large image has a spatial resolution (level of detail) of 250 meters per pixel.
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Layered rocks in Arabia Terra have been the focus of several recent papers. Studies have focused on the layers found in crater basins located in the southwest portion of the region. However, Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) images have identified layered deposits across the region. Terrestrial layered rocks are usually sedimentary, and often deposited in water. Thus extensive layered sequences in Arabia Terra may indicate locations of past, major depositional basins on Mars. Other mechanisms can also create layered rocks, or the appearance of layered rocks, including volcanism (both lava flows and ash falls), wind-blown deposits, and wave-cut terraces at shorelines. By identifying where in the region layers occur, and classifying the layers according to morphology and albedo, past depositional environments may be identified. Arabia Terra is characterized by heavily cratered Noachian plains, as well as a rise from -4000 m in the northwest to 4000 m in the southeast (Mars Orbital Laser Altimeter [MOLA] datum). This slope may have provided a constraint on sediment deposition and thus layer formation. While most of the region is Noachian in age, a significant percentage of the area is identified as Hesperian. Although the history of the Arabia Terra initially seems to be straightforward cratered plains with several younger units atop them analysis of high-resolution imagery may reveal a more complex history.