New Curiosity Rover Image Shows Petrified Sand Dunes

New Image from the Mars Curiosity Rover Reveals Petrified Sand Dunes

(Click for full image) Large-scale crossbedding in the sandstone of this ridge on a lower slope of Mars’ Mount Sharp is typical of windblown sand dunes that have petrified. NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Mastcam to capture this vista on August 27, 2015. Similarly textured sandstone is common in the U.S. Southwest. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A newly released image from NASA’s Curiosity Rover shows petrified sand dunes on the surface of Mars.

Some of the dark sandstone in an area being explored by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows texture and inclined bedding structures characteristic of deposits that formed as sand dunes, then were cemented into rock.

This sandstone outcrop — part of a geological layer that Curiosity’s science team calls the Stimson unit — has a structure called crossbedding on a large scale that the team has interpreted as deposits of sand dunes formed by wind. Similar-looking petrified sand dunes are common in the U.S. Southwest. Geometry and orientation of the crossbedding give information about the directions of the winds that produced the dunes.

The Stimson unit overlies a layer of mudstone that was deposited in a lake environment. Curiosity has been examining successively higher and younger layers of Mount Sharp, starting with the mudstone at the mountain’s base, for evidence about changes in the area’s ancient environment.

The dozens of individual Mastcam images combined into this panorama were taken on August 27, 2015. Curiosity has driven about 103 yards (94 meters) in the subsequent two weeks, generally southward. Outcrops of the Stimson unit sandstone are still accessible to the rover, and researchers plan to use the rover to collect and analyze a drilled sample of Stimson unit sandstone this month.

Curiosity has been working on Mars since early August 2012. It reached the base of Mount Sharp last year after fruitfully investigating outcrops closer to its landing site and then trekking to the mountain.

4 Comments on "New Curiosity Rover Image Shows Petrified Sand Dunes"

  1. Interesting, sand duns have been photographed on Pluto, Mars and also found on Earth as ( petrified ) sandstone. Petrified wood and bone are also found on Earth. I have in my collection a hand sized piece of tree bark, where the wood is petrified , the sap is petrified, and the resin had turned to amber.

    I have a rather extensive collection of amber and petrified wood, so I can compare this piece to amber and petrified wood. Since at least one of the NASA photographs of Mars shows what look like trees, I wonder if amber may be found on Mars in the future ? Amber contains yeast cells, air and water bubbles, and pieces of vegetation , bugs ,feathers , egg shells and bone. On Mars , and perhaps on Pluto , this would be a great discovery.

  2. There is a picture of a heart in the sand. Can you find it?

  3. Gamanzu Philip Bingo | September 13, 2015 at 6:15 am | Reply

    There are pictures of hearts at the four corners at the sand.

  4. Looks more like a lake bottom after it dries up with the sandbars that are left.

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