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Hear the wind on Mars!

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, about 3.9 meters from the rover in this image taken by the camera attched to the instrument located at the end of the rover's long robotic arm.
NASA’s Perseverance rover takes a ‘selfie’ with the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Perseverance

The Perseverance Rover, NASA’s latest mission to Mars, landed in Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021. Nicknamed ‘Percy’, the rover aims to study the geology of Mars and to hunt for evidence of past life on the red planet. Percy can take photos and videos, measure the chemical composition of rocks, and drill into the surface to collect samples of rock and soil. Future NASA and ESA missions plan to retrieve and return these to Earth.

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Martian missions have shown that the landscapes and features of the red planet are strikingly similar to those on Earth; among the most easily identifiable are sand dunes. These images from Earth and Mars are almost indistinguishable from one another, showing beautiful barchan and star-shaped dunes forming on both planets. A key difference is evident in the frosty edges of Mars’s dunes: on Mars, the dunes are found in areas where temperatures can plummet to -150 degrees Celsius.

Dunes form when grains of sand are blown around by winds. Subtle variations in the landscape allow grains to settle in sheltered zones away from the wind, creating small sand patches. These patches grow, trapping more sand until recognisable dune features are formed. Barchan dunes develop when the wind blows consistently in one direction, whereas star dunes form where the wind blows from multiple directions. Geologists use their knowledge about landscapes on Earth to help them understand environments and processes on Mars and other planets.

A series of dark-toned polygonal patterns highlight the textures of the frosty barchan sand dunes of Mars (depicted by lighter icy areas).
Frosty barchan dunes, Mars {HiRISE}
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Aerial view of crescent-shaped sandy dunes running along the extent of the greeny-blue Atlantic coastline of Brazil.
Crescent-shaped barchan dunes at Lagoa dos Barros, Brazil
Credit: Expedition 52 Crew/ISS/NASA-JSC

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