NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
One of the simplest forms a sand dune can take is the barchan. The term, apparently, comes from the Arabic word for crescent-shaped dunes. They form in areas with a single dominant wind direction that are also not overly-abundant in sand. The barchan dunes shown here were imaged in March 2004 by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) as it passed over a crater in western Arabia Terra near 21.1°N, 17.6°W. The horns and steep slope on each dune, known as the slip face, point toward the south, indicating prevailing winds from the north (top). The picture covers an area about 3 km (1.9 mi) across and is illuminated by sunlight from the lower left.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, California. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, California and Denver, Colorado.