Home / Science / NASA discovers spectacular rock formations on Mars – and scientists do not know what caused them

NASA discovers spectacular rock formations on Mars – and scientists do not know what caused them

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2006, returning many spectacular images back to Earth. But a picture taken by the spacecraft on January 27 has particularly fascinated the scientists.

The image – taken about 200 miles above the north pole of the planet – shows a landscape contrasted with showy, dark gray sand dunes. Rocky surface with geometric patterns

When the image is magnified, alternating light and dark parallel stripes appear. And in the darker regions, neatly organized piles of boulders are at strangely regular intervals.

NASA scientists are not entirely sure what caused these neatly shaped piles. They speculate, however, that it could be associated with a phenomenon called frostbite.

"With chop, repeated freezing and thawing of the soil can bring rocks to the surface and organize them into heaps, strips or even circles." NASA explained in a statement. [1

94559009]  PIA22334 [19659008] Picture from the MRO. </span> <span class= NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. of Arizona

Freezing occurs on Earth, where this freezing and thawing cycle lasts about a year. But on Mars, the statement said, the process may be "associated with changes in the planet's orbit around the Sun, which takes 687 days."

The image was taken by the high-resolution imaging science experiment camera aboard the MRO part of a project to track the movement of sand dunes near the planet's North Pole. The MRO, built by Lockheed Martin under the supervision of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, started in August 2005 and took about seven and a half months to reach the Red Planet. [194559009]  Marsboulders2 [19659013] An enlarged section of the picture, showing the striped areas with neat blocks. </span> <span class= NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. of Arizona

With $ 720 million, the mission is designed to help astronomers learn about various Martian features, from the planet's atmosphere to the subsurface regions rich. As part of this mission, the MRO has also been looking for signs of water on the planet.

Recently, the MRO discovered several sites on Mars that harbor huge water ice deposits, according to a study published in Science ]. These locations could prove to be a source of water for future manned missions on the Red Planet.

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