NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has sent back our first 360-degree view of the Namib Dune. The image is our first close-up of active extraterrestrial dunes.
Namib is part of the Bagnold Dunes, which move about 3 feet per Earth year by ongoing mini-avalanches caused by wind-whipped slopes.
Curiosity has been roving the dunes surrounding Mount Sharp since 2014 to measure how less gravity and less atmosphere affects how wind moves sand. In coming weeks and months, Curiosity will work its way up Mount Sharp to study the mountain’s layers.
The center of the image — adjusted to show the landscape as it would appear with Earth’s sunlight levels — is east, looking toward Mars’ Mount Sharp in the distance. Both sides are west.
Curiosity captured this image with its Mastcam in late December, on its 1,197th Martian day on the planet, according to NASA. The six-wheeled craft launched in 2011, weighing it at nearly 2,000 pounds.