Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

The Groovy Dunes of Herschel

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-203, 31 January 2000


Except for small wind ripples on their surfaces, normal, active sand dunes have very smooth slopes. However, some dunes found in the Herschel Basin of Terra Cimmeria (around 15°S, 228°W) have very rough, grooved surfaces instead. These grooves indicate that the dune surfaces for some reason are cemented---i.e., the sand is not loose---and that wind has actually had to scour the sand to remove it and transport it away from these dunes. What has caused these dunes to become cemented is unknown, and dunes like this are extremely rare on Mars (they have only been seen in Herschel Basin, thus far). This Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image was acquired on May 5, 1999, and is illuminated from the upper left.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

The grooved dunes presented here are also described in an abstract accepted for the 31st annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference to be held in Houston, Texas, in March 2000. The abstract is ©2000 Lunar and Planetary Institute: "Examples of Martian Sandstone: Indurated, Lithified, and Cratered Eolian Dunes in MGS MOC Images," by K.S. Edgett and M.C. Malin, Abstract No. 1071, Lunar and Planetary Science XXXI, 2000. This is a PDF file. For best results, use your "save this link as" option on your web browser, download to your desktop, then open with appropriate software such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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, CA. 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, CA and Denver, CO.

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