“The ripples on them are much larger than ripples on top of dunes on Earth, and we don’t know why.”
The so-called Bagnold Dunes are on the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp, which Curiosity reached last year. One of the dunes is as large as a two-storey building and as broad as a football field, according to NASA. Observations from orbit indicate the dunes are moving about one metre per year.
Curiosity is monitoring the area’s wind speed and direction, and will collect samples for analysis.
“We’ve planned investigations that will not only 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,” said campaign co-head Bethany Ehlmann of the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“We will use Curiosity to learn whether the wind is actually sorting the minerals in the dunes by how the wind transports particles of different grain size,” Ehlmann said.