'Unusual' circles of sand spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

The truth is, these photos show a connection between Mars and our planet.
Sade Agard
What are they?
What are they?


NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft, a long-term satellite orbiting the red planet, has captured an "unusual" image of sand dunes with notably circular shapes, according to a recent release by NASA.

The MRO spacecraft's High-Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRise) color camera has already captured numerous stunning dunes, including some more common crescent-shaped ones. But this one was somewhat distinctive. 

"Sand dunes of many shapes and sizes are common on Mars. In this example, the dunes are almost perfectly circular, which is unusual," remarked planetary geologist Alfred McEwen.

Mars is ideal for developing sand dunes due to its windy and dusty environment. These dunes, however, are not exactly circular, as was discovered upon further study.

"They are still slightly asymmetrical, with steep slip faces on the south ends. This indicates that sand generally moves to the south, but the winds may be variable," he added.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) took pictures of the dunes in late November of the previous year using the HiRise camera, which is operated by the University of Arizona. 

The absence of frost is visible in the image, which was taken to observe seasonal variations in the area's frost coverage. A previous image showed when the surface was covered by frost.

'Unusual' circles of sand spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
A previous image shows when the surface was covered by frost.

While it may seem that Mars' landscape appears otherworldly, the truth is these photos show a connection between our two planets. Beautiful dunes can also be found on Earth, which reveals similar tales of wind and seasonal changes. Each planet has its own unique beauty that ought to be cherished.

What is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission?

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is an orbiting spacecraft that investigates the geologic past and current climate of Mars. Since 2006, it has been studying the atmosphere and terrain of the Red Planet from orbit with high-resolution sensors superior to the orbiter Odyssey. It also serves as a crucial data relay station for several Martian missions.

The MRO has returned thousands of breathtaking images of the Martian surface that are assisting scientists in their understanding of Mars, including the history of water flows on or near the planet's surface. It is equipped with a powerful camera- the most powerful high-resolution camera ever sent to Mars- called HiRISE that has helped in a number of discoveries.

MRO offers unique insights into the origin and evolution of the planet by enabling scientists to contrast the factors that shaped Mars with those that shaped the Earth. Its discoveries aid in the understanding of how and whether Earth could experience the same fate as this Earth-like planet, which went from being a habitable world to a wasteland.

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