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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Captures Image Of Blue Dune On Red Planet

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The HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of a blue dune on Mars' Lyot Crater region. The image was enhanced to provide a better look at the surface features of the Red Planet.  ( NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona )

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has captured a blue dune image on Mars, an irony given that this arid world is also known as the Red Planet.

Dunes On Lyot Crater Region

The image, which the U.S. space agency unveiled on June 20, shows classic barchan dunes on Mars' Lyot Crater region.

The image was enhanced to provide a better look at the surface features of the Solar System's fourth planet. The approach used to enhance the color is also used on images captured by the June spacecraft of the gas giant Jupiter for a better view of the planet's swirling cloud formation.

MRO took the image on Jan. 24 using the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), one of its six instruments.

One Of Most Widespread Aeolian Features On Planet Mars

Sand dunes are one of the most widespread aeolian features on Mars and serve as unique indicators of the interaction between the Martian surface and the planet's atmosphere.

NASA said that the dune is made of finer material that has different composition from the surrounding. Sand dunes such as this tend to accumulate in the floor of craters.

"Just to the south of the group of barchan dunes is one large dune with a more complex structure," NASA said. "This particular dune, appearing like turquoise blue in enhanced color, is made of finer material and/or has a different composition than the surrounding."

Massive Dust Storm

NASA released the blue dune image amid a massive dust storm that has now encircled the planet, obscuring Mars and turning it into a deep shade of blood red.

As the dust storm prevents sunlight from reaching the surface, NASA's solar-powered Opportunity rover had to shut down due to lack of power. It remains unclear if the rover has survived the storm. It could take weeks before the mission team would be able to confirm the status of the rover.

"We've been listening every day (but) the dust storm has actually gotten worse, it's become a planet-encircling dust event," said Project Manager John Callas on Friday. "The last indications were that there were no signs of its abating. Is it a week? Is it a month? No one knows at this point."

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched in August 2005 to find evidence that water persisted on the Martian surface for a long period. The spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin.

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