NASA’s Mars Orbiter takes a stunning photo of the frozen sand dunes in the northern planes


NASA’s Mars Orbiter takes a stunning photo of icy sand dunes in the northern planes of the Red Planet

  • The photo was taken from 196 miles above the Martian surface by the Orbiter.
  • It was taken with the HiRISE camera that also captured perseverance images.
  • The images appear to show an icy series of sand dunes within a 3-mile crater.
  • NASA says this could point to evidence of gully formation from melting ice

NASA has released a new image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that shows impressive icy sand dunes within a 3-mile crater in the northern planes of the planet.

Taken in February, the image reveals some details about the formation of gullies on the Red Planet, caused as the ice melts with the changes of season.

Some of the dunes within the field appear to have separated from the main group, NASA said, and appear to be climbing the slope of the crater along a gully-like shape.

NASA’s Mars Orbiter has been capturing images of Mars since 2006, sending out gigabytes of photos and revealing new details about the ancient world.

NASA has released a new image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that shows impressive icy sand dunes within a 3-mile crater in the northern planes of the planet.

This last image was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 196 miles above the Martian surface.

It shows a ‘field of sand dunes’ within a frost-covered crater in the high latitudes of the northern planes of the Red Planet, revealing gullies likely formed by melting ice.

The surface of the main dune field is covered by a series of dark-hued polygonal patterns. These may be the result of a seasonal frost process, NASA said.

Several of the steepest dune slopes, pointing in the direction of the wind, harbor narrow grooves that suggest the beginning of gully formation. Possibly from melting ice.

One of the main goals of the orbiting spacecraft is to find evidence that water flowed across the surface of the Red Planet once, for how long, and if it did so in sufficient quantity and for long enough that life could evolve.

The discovery of evidence of the melting of ice and the formation of ravines contributes to the scientific understanding of the planet.

The crater floor contains a variety of textures, including lobed covers, along with stripe patterns that indicate seasonal thaw caused by ice sublimation.

This is a map projection taken by Orbiter showing the location of the sand dune field within the 3-mile-wide crater on Mars.

This is a map projection taken by Orbiter showing the location of the sand dune field within the 3-mile-wide crater on Mars.

The wide downward movement of materials on the crater slopes opposite the dune field superficially resembles ravines, NASA said.

Except they are generally not defined by distinctive niches, incised channels, or sediment aprons, seen in ravines elsewhere on the planet.

This has left open questions about how exactly they were formed, what they are, and why they appear to be different from ravines elsewhere on Mars.

Future orbiters, as well as the work of people like Curiosity and the newcomer Perseverance rover, will help answer some of these questions.

NASA's Mars Orbiter has been capturing images of Mars since 2006, sending out gigabytes of photos and revealing new details about the ancient world.

NASA’s Mars Orbiter has been capturing images of Mars since 2006, sending out gigabytes of photos and revealing new details about the ancient world.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has six different instruments on board, capable of studying any level of the Red Planet, including the subterranean layers.

NASA hopes to keep it running until at least 2030 as it has been used to send data from both rovers, adding that it could even run longer.

It was used to capture Perseverance’s landing phase as it made its way to the surface, in addition to revealing the rover as a ‘tiny dot’ on the vast orange surface.

WHAT IS THE MARS RECOGNITION ORBITATOR?

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) looks for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time.

It was launched on August 12, 2005 and reached an initial orbit around the red planet on March 10, 2006.

In November 2006, after five months, it entered its final science orbit and began its primary science phase.

Since its arrival, MRO and its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) telescope have been mapping the Martian surface, which has been taking shape for more than three billion years.

MRO instruments analyze minerals, search for groundwater, track how dust and water are distributed in the atmosphere, and monitor daily weather in support of its scientific goals.

MRO missions have shown that water flowed across the Martian surface, but it is still unknown whether the water persisted long enough to provide a habitat for life.

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