New Mars Photo Shows Countless Worm-Like Dunes

A newly released image from the surface of Mars has revealed an abundance of odd, squiggly worm-shaped dunes around the red planet’s southern hemisphere.

Dunes are scattered across Mars’ sandy surface, and the newly-released NASA photo shows just how odd the formations look when snapped from above.

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The picture, taken by the space agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows a huge collection of dunes just west of the Hellas impact basin, one of the red planet’s largest and most recognizable impact basins.

“The Hellespontus region features numerous collections of dark, dune formations that collect both within depressions such as craters, and among ‘extra-crater’ plains areas,” NASA said in a statement.

The majority of the dunes seen in the image are ‘barchan’ dunes, which are crescent-shaped and are common on Earth in open, inland desert regions. However, some longer, narrower ‘seif’ dunes can also be seen. ‘Seif’ comes from the Arabic word for ‘sword.’

The worm-like shape of the sandy formations is partly due to the direction of the sun when the photo was taken. “Here, the steep, sunlit side of the dune, called a slip face, indicates the down-wind side of the dune and direction of its migration,” NASA explained.

The images were captured using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The craft has been orbiting the red planet since 2006, and has beamed back striking photos of Mars every month.

Filmmaker Jan Fröjdman has created a breathtaking video using NASA images from the orbiter. The film opens with a nearby approach of Mars’ moon Phobos and goes on to show numerous other interesting topographical features. “There is a feeling that you are flying above Mars looking down watching interesting locations on the planet,” Fröjdman said.