Curiosity is currently performing the first in-depth study of an active sand dune on another planet. The rover is investigating a dune called ‘Namib,’ which is part of the Bagnold Dunes along the northwestern base of Mount Sharp. These images were taken by Navcam and show the slip face of Namib Dune, which is ~13 feet high. The slip face of a dune is the steep, downwind side down which sand grains cascade from the brink of the dune. Images taken from orbit show that some of these dunes move up to 3 feet per Earth year. Mars has much less gravity and a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, which affects the movement of sediments on the surface. Curiosity’s dune campaign will help scientists better understand how wind on Mars transports and sorts sand grains.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech