Curiosity comes across massive, mysterious dunes on Mars

Curiosity comes across massive, mysterious dunes on Mars

Scientists are intrigued by this geological feature on the northwestern portion of Mount Sharp.

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover is making the arduous climb up Mount Sharp, and it’s hit some sand dunes on the lower portion on its way there.

The dunes cover the lower portion of the mountain, which sits inside the Gale Crater and represents the main destination for Curiosity, according to a UPI report.

Curiosity snapped some pictures of the dunes, which appear to be dark and rise in the air quite high — two stories, in some cases. They’ve even named one of the largest dunes “High Dune.”

These are active dunes, based on satellite observations, meaning that Curiosity’s tracks left behind won’t be there for long. The sand shifts at a rate of three feet each year.

Scientists are intrigued by this geological feature on the northwestern portion of Mount Sharp. It’s part of a larger group of dunes called the Bagnold Dunes.

The rover has been very busy on the surface of the Red planet since it first landed there on August 6 of 2012. It has led to a number of important scientific discoveries as it drilled and drove through the landscaped, taking spectacular photographs and sending them back to Earth. What will it find at the top of Mount Sharp? Scientists don’t know, but they intend to find out.

Sandy locations have been the death of Mars rovers in the past. Spirt — the twin of the Opportunity rover — got stuck in a sandtrap in 2009 and still sits there to this day. However, Curiosity is made of some hardy stuff, and is capable of powering over these large dunes.

Curiosity will use its robot arm to scoop up and analyze some of the sand, as scientists want to know more about its composition to better understand this geological phenomenon.

But they’ll need to be careful, watching how Curiosity’s wheels sink into the sand to keep it from getting stuck.

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