NASA’s Curiosity Rover Studies Mars Sand Dunes For The First Time

Posted: Dec 12 2015, 8:48pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 13 2015, 8:45pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Investigates Mars Sand Dunes for the First Time
Image of grains of sand near a large dune. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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Rover captures close up images of the dark dunes. This is the first time a rover is investigating extraterrestrial active dunes.

NASA’s Curiosity rover has finally reached Martian sand dunes and has begun a close up investigation of them, marking it as the first ever trip of a rover to extraterrestrial active dunes.

Mars' sand dunes are located on the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp and some of them are as tall as a two-story building.

Mars' sand dunes, also known as Bagnold Dunes, are active and are shifting place about 1 meter per Earth year. Researchers want to know why exactly this happens.

Curiosity has been working on Mars since August 2012 and was looking at the atmosphere of the planet, monitoring wind direction and speed each day.

Back in November, NASA announced that the rover was heading to the dark sand dunes of Mars to get an idea about the composition of higher layers made from dunes.

“These dunes have a different texture from dunes on Earth. The ripples on them are much larger than ripples on top of dunes on Earth, and we don’t know why. We have models based on the lower air pressure. It takes a higher wind speed to get a particle moving. But now we’ll have the first opportunity to make detailed observations.” Nathan Bridges, leader of the planning team for Curiosity’s dune campaign said in a statement.

Rover is not only taking close up images of the dunes but will scoop samples from dune’s outer layer and interior and examine them through rover’s internal laboratory instruments.

Bagnold Dunes on Mars are named after Ralph Alger Bagnold, a desert explorer who made thorough research on how wind can transport sand and shape the surface of the Earth. Researchers suspect that wind is also responsible for the migration of sand dunes on Mars. Curiosity’s campaign on Mars will help them understand modern dune activity on the planet.

Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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