NASA’s Perseverance rover is getting all the attention right now, along with the Ingenuity helicopter that is about to take flight over the red planet. But the space agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter also continues to work in silence, broadcasting incredible images captured from high above the Martian surface.
The incredible photo below, for example, shows the icy sand dunes of Mars, their dazzling beauty winning NASA’s Picture of the Day award for Thursday, March 25.
“A field of sand dunes occupies this icy crater 5 kilometers in diameter in the high latitudes of the northern plains of Mars,” the space agency said in comments accompanying the image.
“The surface of the main dune field is characterized by a series of dark-hued polygonal patterns,” he adds. “These can be the result of seasonal frost processes. Several of the steeper dune slopes, pointing downwind, harbor narrow grooves that suggest the beginning of gully formation. “
NASA says the crater floor in the image reveals a variety of textures, “including lobed and striped patterns that indicate seasonal thaw caused by sublimation of the ice.”
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured the image last month with its High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera from an altitude of 196 miles (315 km).
NASA’s orbiter, which carries six instruments capable of studying all levels of Mars from the underground layers to the upper part of the atmosphere, reached the red planet in 2006. The spacecraft is operating well beyond initial expectations, and NASA now aims to keep it running until the end of this decade, possibly beyond.
The satellite has also been sending out some fascinating images showing NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars in February 2021. It even managed to capture Perseverance’s landing phase as it parachuted toward the Martian surface. Another image, taken shortly after, shows the rover as a small dot in the desolate Martian landscape.