NASA has revealed a close-up image of Mars’ sand dunes today. This is the first ever available depiction of sand dunes from a different planet from Earth. Curiosity Rover, a rover sent to Mars to explore Gale Crater, is presently investigating a portion of Mount Sharp, which is part of the crater.
The mission is called “Bagnold Dunes” and had only gathered images from afar, but today the rover has furnished NASA with up-close images of the sand.
Curiosity has been studying the red planet since 2012, but it has only now reached the sand dunes and been able to send photographic proof. They reveal the sand grains from a close range, making them easier to be studied.
The photo released by NASA is a composite of different images taken by the rover on November 27th. NASA also revealed the images captured from afar in August this year.
But the mission is far from over. After gathering images, the rover will proceed to collect samples and to analyze them using laboratory instruments that it has onboard. The goal is for it to produce as much information as possible about the changes the area has undergone over time. The only relevant data in this sense was obtained from orbit and it shows that the sand dunes rise by one meter per year.
Curiosity is currently on the Northwest side of Mars and is investigating the deepest levels of sand. This data will hopefully contribute to the knowledge about the existence of water on the red planet and facilitate some groundbreaking information about its evolution. A corollary is to find habitable areas for the forthcoming mission on Mars in the year 2030.
So far, the scientists have been able to surmise from the photo that Martian sand dunes are unlike those from Earth. The ripples on the Martian dunes are larger, the reasons, however, remain unknown. But there is one possible explanation based on the fact that Mars has lower air pressure. The theory says that only a high wind speed can make the sand particles move and create the dunes, but it remains to be verified in the future tests that will be made on the samples.
Image source: www.pixabay.com