The Curiosity Rover captured images of strange Mars dunes that are sand formations with an unusual profile. These special Mars dunes have a topography that was not found anywhere else on the planet.
The sand structures were found in the Gale Crater, situated in the Aeolis quadrangle. The NASA rover landed on the mountain inside the crater in August 2012 and since then it is exploring Aeolis Mons and its surroundings.
Scientists hope to discover more on the evolution of the Martial atmosphere, which is believed to have caused the sand formations.
Dunes and ripples have also been found on Titan, Venus, and on the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet. However, the researchers say that the Mars dunes are unique.
The leading author of the study explains that the dunes found on Earth can also be found on Mars, only much larger. They have one stepper side, affected by frequent avalanches, and a second side that is softer.
The Martian dunes have 10 feet ripples, and it was thought that they were much larger than those on Earth. The long distance between the imager and the surface of the planet made it very difficult to observe the smaller ripples on the surface of Mars.
Curiosity approached the dunes and took images of the crest lines. The researchers noticed that the upper part was sinuous, similar to those on Earth.
There are other details that make Mars dunes almost the same as the ones on Earth, such as the differences in steepness between their sides, and the sand flows.
Experts explain that the formations could have been formed in the same way as those on our planet, by winds that dragged the sand.
Scientists connect the size of the ripples to the force of the Martian winds that sweep the surface. A long time ago, Mars had a thicker atmosphere that did not permit the apparition of small sand waving. Over time, the air became less dense, which led to the creation of finer Mars dunes.
The Curiosity rover took images of Mars dunes as old as 3 billion years. The researchers concluded that the atmosphere of the planet changed very early in its history.
On Mars, the sand dunes create a relief similar to the one found on Earth. Only the ripples are a reminder that the Red Planet has an entirely different structure and history.
After walking around taking pictures of the dune field, Curiosity continued its climb to the lower part of Mount Sharp. The next mission would be to investigate if the environmental conditions created a favorable setting for microbial life, or if the planet had ever been able to foster life.
Image Source: Flickr