NASA satellite spots strange dunes on Mars

Mars continues to reveal its secret as NASA publishes new, never-before-seen images of the Martian surface.

New images snapped by HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, reveal new stunning details of the Martian surface.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

According to scientists, the new images show the extreme erosive capacity of the wind on the surface of the Red Planet in never-before-seen detail.

In the image above, we can observe a number of Martian dunes. Together they form a massive structure, an elongated crescent shape and are referred to collectively as the “Barchan dunes“.

They are formed by the continuous action of the wind that blows in the same direction.

This helped scientists understand more about the wind on the Martian surface.

As explained by scientists, the orientation of these dunes indicates that the prevailing wind blows from right to left (east to west).

The wind continuously moves the grains of sand along the longest slope of the dune, towards the top.

The small undulations in the slope are caused by this movement.

When the grains of sand reach the top, they fall down the steeper and shorter slopes, which, consequently, has no undulations.

It is this gradual movement of sand that makes the dunes move slowly over time, reports NASA.

Another image snapped by HiRISE shows how the erosion of the Martian landscape reveals several layers of light tones, probably sedimentary deposits, on the Martian surface.

The most recent geological features are, in this case, narrow sand dunes that meander at the top of all the rocks.

It is noteworthy to mention that HiRISE operates at visible wavelengths, just like the human eyes, but with a telescopic lens that produces images at resolutions never before seen in planetary exploration missions.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

These high-resolution images allow planetary scientists to differentiate 1-meter-sized objects on Mars and study the morphology (surface structure) in an unprecedented way.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched on August 12, 2005, MRO aboard an Atlas V-401 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Its primary mission lasted for only two years, but the orbiter has successfully been exploring Mars for 12 years, 11 months and 2 days (4596 sols) as of this writing.

The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera is a 0.5 m reflecting telescope. It also happens to be the largest ever ‘telescopic camera’ carried on a deep space mission. According to NASA, it features a resolution of 1 microradian.


To find out more about the MRO and its HiRISE instrument click here.

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