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Stunning Dunes, Crevices And Horizons From Mars Spacecraft

Dunes in Noachis Terra on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Dunes in Noachis Terra on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Who doesn’t love Mars? Amid the bad news of a U.S. government shutdown now stretching towards Day 12, there are still several spacecraft from NASA and the European Space Agency taking pictures of that red dot in the sky. Here are some recent stunners from the Red Planet.

Above is an infrared view of Noachis Terra as seen through the eyes of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera website (from the University of Arizona) released the picture on its website Oct. 2, with this description (in part):

“When there are perfect conditions for producing sand dunes — steady wind in one direction and just enough sand — barchan sand dunes form. The word ‘barchan’ is a Russian term because this type of dune was first described in the desert regions of Turkistan.”

MRO is run under a contract from NASA and is still operating, although its Twitter feed warns funds are running low.

Mosaic of Hebes Chasma by ESA's Mars Express. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Mosaic of Hebes Chasma by ESA’s Mars Express. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Mars Express is a European Space Agency spacecraft and is thus not affected by the shutdown. This mosaic of eight images released Oct. 8 (above) shows Hebes Chasma, which is about 186 miles (300 kilometers) north of Valles Marineris. The trench is about five miles (eight kilometers) deep at its utmost, and hundreds of miles long. “A flat-topped mesa is located in the center of Hebes Chasma, which was likely shaped by the action of wind and water,” ESA wrote.

Meanwhile, the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers are still trundling away on Mars. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a contract operation and is still running its missions for the time being. These pictures were downloaded from the raw image sites for the rovers (here and here) as all press updates are suspended amid the shutdown.

Raw Mars Curiosity image on Oct. 3 of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Raw Mars Curiosity image on Oct. 3 of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Raw image of Opportunity's view of the Martian horizon on Sol 3450 earlier in October. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Raw image of Opportunity’s view of the Martian horizon on Sol 3450 earlier in October. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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