Dune Mars

Dune Mars

Dune Mars

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Dec. 8 2006 1:17 PM

Dune Mars

I know, I've been posting a lot about Mars images lately, but I can't help it. They're so pretty!

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

But I think I have a favorite now. Check out this HiRISE image of Mars dunes:

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Mmmmmmm. Prettttty. I love so much about this picture. The flowing shapes, geometric yet still smooth and somehow sensual, like a very expensive velvet fabric. The steel grey color and the tonal contrast washes over my eye. And then, of course, is the knowledge that these are wind-swept dunes of iron-laden sand, an aeolian deposit of alien dust upon an extraterrestrial surface.

Sigh.

Some art loses its integrity of you look too closely, but nature is still better at this than we are. Let your mind zoom down into the images, and see what details lurk therein:

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There is fine rippling of the sand between the dunes, and the ridges still bear out their sharp contours. How lovely! And it does nothing to subtract from its beauty to know that at the time this images was taken, the ground temperature was something like -100 ℃.

And even this is not the sharpest image; there is a 13000 x 21000 (108 Mb) image of this as well on the HiRISE site. Remember-- the smallest features you see in this image are a meter or two across.

Funny-- meteorite geek that I am, the first thing I thought of when I saw this picture was how much it looked like a Sikhote-Alin meteorite, an iron meteorite that impacted in Russia in 1947:

The dunes have nothing to do with the meteorite, but the shapes in the image and the color are strikingly similar. Of course, the Mars image is grayscale, and the real color of the surface there is probably reddish or tan. But that's OK, it takes nothing away from the picture's beauty.

Sikhote-Alin is my favorite kind of meteorite, so this Mars picture has meaning for me that way as well. Now, I just have to let Mrs. BA let me make a print of it and hang it somewhere in the house, preferably next to my meteorite collection ...