Monitoring Sand Sheets And Dunes

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

June 13, 2017 – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured this crater featuring sand dunes and sand sheets on its floor. What are sand sheets? Snow fall on Earth is a good example of sand sheets: when it snows, the ground gets blanketed with up to a few meters of snow. The snow mantles the ground and “mimics” the underlying topography. Sand sheets likewise mantle the ground as a relatively thin deposit.

This kind of environment has been monitored by HiRISE since 2007 to look for movement in the ripples covering the dunes and sheets. This is how scientists who study wind-blown sand can track the amount of sand moving through the area and possibly where the sand came from. Using the present environment is crucial to understanding the past: sand dunes, sheets, and ripples sometimes become preserved as sandstone and contain clues as to how they were deposited

The map is projected here at a scale of 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) per pixel. [The original image scale is 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) per pixel (with 1 x 1 binning); objects on the order of 75 centimeters (29.5 inches) across are resolved.] North is up.

The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorodo. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Littleton, Colorado, built the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and collaborates with JPL to operate the spacecraft.