SkyWatch: dune at Dingo Gap

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover has crossed a dune that stands across a gateway to a southwestward route favoured by the rover team for driving to future ­science destinations.

After reaching the west side of the one-metre tall dune, the rover looked back at its tracks down the western slope.

The dune sits between low scarps at a site called Dingo Gap inside Mars’ Gale Crater. Now that Curiosity has passed through the gap, engineers and scientists plan to direct the mobile laboratory toward a location of interest where different rock types intersect.

That is a candidate site for next use of the rover’s drill. Beyond that, the drive will continue toward the mission’s long-term science destination on lower slopes of Mount Sharp, in the middle of the crater.

The team operating the rover will likely drive it westward over a dune and across a valley with fewer sharp rock hazards than alternative ­routes.

A final decision on whether to pass through this valley will ride on evaluation of a short drive planned this week toward the top of the dune that lies across Dingo Gap.

The dune is about one metre high at its centre, tapered off at both sides of the gap between two low scarps.

A colour view assembled from images taken by Curiosity’s mast camera (Mastcam) on the east side of the dune shows details of the ­valley that the rover may traverse this month.

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the ­project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

LONELY MOUNTAIN ON THE MOON WEST OF GODIN

This mountain is characterised as a prominent plateau that rises above the surrounding surface. 

The formation is about 25km x 20km in maximum ­dimensions at its base.

The highest point of this unusual ­formation reaches about 2.3km in ­relation to the lower region of the ­surrounding surface. On the upper face of the this interesting plateau is a wide, flat, horizontal and relatively smooth area, like a big table.

This horizontal surface is at an ­altitude of about 1.5km compared to the lower surface of the surrounding region, and has an area of about 50 square ­kilometres, or substantially the same area occupied by a crater with 8km in diameter.

This detached flat surface hosts inside a tiny crater about 2km in diameter. Another small crater 3km in diameter is positioned on its southern edge.

We are indebted to Professor Ricardo Jose Vaz Tolentino for his amazing lunar photography skills and careful lunar ­surveying from his roof top observatory in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Technical details: Sky-Watcher Collapsible Truss-Tube DOB 12" + Celestron Ultima 2X Barlow + Orion StarShoot Solar System Colour Imager III Camera

South-east of Dembowski, crater diameter: 26km, depth: 1km and west of Godin, crater diameter: 34km, depth: 3.4km is a strange, rare, salient and understudied formation.

DINGO GAP: NASA’s Little Rover crosses a dune at Dingo Gap. 	Image courtesy of nasa/jpl

DINGO GAP: NASA’s Little Rover crosses a dune at Dingo Gap. Image courtesy of nasa/jpl

WEST OF GODIN: This mountain is characterised as a prominent plateau that rises above the surrounding surface.

WEST OF GODIN: This mountain is characterised as a prominent plateau that rises above the surrounding surface.

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