Dark Dunes in Herschel Crater
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Dark Dunes in Herschel Crater

April 19, 2007

This Martian image shows part of the floor of Herschel Crater, a roughly 300 kilometer wide impact basin located in the southern cratered highlands of Mars.

The subimage is a close-up of a dark-toned sand dune field located on the crater floor. These dunes are "barchan" dunes, which are also commonly found on Earth. Barchan dunes are generally crescent-shaped, with their "horns" oriented in the downwind direction. They have a steep slip face (the downwind side of the dune).

Barchan dunes form by winds that blow mostly in one direction and thus are good indicators of the dominant wind direction. In this case, the strongest winds blow approximately north to south.

The surface of the dunes has a generally pitted and grooved texture and, in some places, is covered with smaller ripples. The grooved texture has led researchers in the past to believe the dune sands are "lithified," or cemented together. The rock that formed as a result has since been eroded and scoured by wind.

These dark dunes in Herschel Crater are most likely composed of basaltic sand.

Observation Geometry

Image PSP_002860_1650 was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on 07-Mar-2007. The complete image is centered at -14.8 degrees latitude, 127.9 degrees East longitude. The range to the target site was 259.0 km (161.9 miles). At this distance the image scale is 25.9 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~78 cm across are resolved.

The image shown here has been map-projected to 25 cm/pixel and north is up. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 03:44 PM and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 56 degrees, thus the sun was about 34 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 195.9 degrees, the season on Mars is Northern Autumn.

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