Monday, December 7, 2009


I opened the page with the image above, and after a moment, realized that a big wide smile had spread across my face. The abstract symmetry of these martian dunes is exquisitely beautiful to me... with the added bonus that they're on Mars! From NASA's Image of the Day Gallery, where a variety of image sizes are available.
This view from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is of the Proctor Crater. The relatively bright, small ridges are ripples. From their study on Earth, and close-up examination by the MER rovers (roving elsewhere on Mars), scientists surmise that the ripples are composed of fine sand (less than 200 microns in diameter) or fine sand coated with coarser sand and granules.

The larger, darker bedforms are dunes composed of sand, most likely of fine size. Ripples tend to move slower than dunes. Because of this, over time, ripples get covered with dust, possibly explaining the bright tone visible here. The dunes are dark probably because they are composed of basaltic sand (derived from dark, volcanic rock) that is blown by the wind enough that dust does not sufficiently accumulate to change their color.

This area in Proctor Crater is being monitored by HiRISE to document any changes over time.

This image is a portion of the HiRISE observation taken on Feb. 9, 2009.

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