A tapestry of rippling sand dunes on Mars

This broad field of barchan sand dunes – dunes with crescent shapes – in the Olympia Undae region near Mars’ northern polar cap was imaged by NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. The image, showing a small segment of the dune field, was taken during summer when the surface was free of frost. The dunes cover an area of some 470,000 square kilometres (181,000 square miles), larger than the U.S. state of California, and surround about a quarter of the northern polar cap. It is the most expansive continuous field of dunes on Mars.

A field of sand dunes near the north polar cap of Mars as imaged by NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU