The Curiosity rover snapped this highly detailed image (above) on November 27th. We are looking at a sand dune informally named ‘High Dune.’ It’s located along the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp and is part of a field of active dark dunes known as ‘Bagnold Dunes.’
NASA did adjust the image slightly to show how the sand would look under daytime lighting conditions on Earth. Check out the full composite image below.
Curiosity’s pit stop at these sand dunes will “tell us about modern dune activity on Mars but will also help us interpret the composition of sandstone layers made from dunes that turned into rock long ago,” says Bethany Ehlmann of the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Curiosity should also shed some light on how wind is moving grains of different sizes according to Ehlmann. We can see the remains of this in the image below.
You can make out individual coarse grains in the image. They were left behind after wind blew smaller particles away.
And another image showing a wheel track left by Curiosity.
There definitely appears to be various grain sizes in this image. Maybe the Curiosity team will get lucky and see how the wind shifts smaller and larger grains in real time.
Here’s one more image of the wheel track left by Curiosity.
The Curiosity team will use the rover’s wheels and instruments to study the up to two story tall dunes. Soon, Curiosity will scoop up a sample and analyze it using its onboard instruments. Once Curiosity is done with ‘High Dune,’ it will continue its trek up to higher layers of Mount Sharp.