Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

Dark Sand Dunes

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-669, 18 March 2004

NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

This Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image shows a field of low-albedo (i.e., dark) sand dunes in a crater in Noachis Terra. Dunes on Earth are usually light while those on Mars are usually dark. This contrast results from a difference in the mineral composition. Earth dunes often contain abundant quartz, which appears light, while martian dunes typically contain minerals and rock fragments abundant in iron- and magnesium-rich minerals, which are usually dark. This dune field is located near 41.7°S, 319.8°W. The steeper slopes on these dunes, known as slip faces, point toward the lower left (southwest), indicating the dominant winds come from the northeast (upper right). This picture covers an area about 3 km (1.9 mi) across. Sunlight illuminates the scene from the upper left.

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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.

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