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See the sand on Mars move under NASA's Curiosity rover

Mars' blustery summer winds push the sand around in an animated image from NASA's rover.

The shifting sands of Mars.


It's a familiar sight on Earth: Wind rakes over sand dunes, pushing the grains into distorted patterns. The landscape on Mars sometimes mimics conditions on our Blue Marble. A NASA image shared on Monday gives a close-up of the Curiosity rover's view of shifting wind-blown sands on the Red Planet.

The GIF covers the span of a day on Mars, with the first image snapped on January 23 and the second on January 24. NASA notes the pictures were taken as a part of an investigation into wind's effects during the Martian summer, which NASA notes is the windiest time of year in Gale Crater, an ancient meteor impact site. The image covers a patch of ground about 3 feet (1 meter) wide.

One of Curiosity's wheels is visible in the upper left corner of the image and the wheel track in the sand extends along the left side. Those tracks go from clearly defined to blurry as the image shifts.

The Curiosity rover hitched a ride to Mars back in 2011 and landed in the Gale Crater in 2012. Since then, it has driven nearly 10 miles (16 kilometers). The shifting-sands images were taken with a downward-facing camera during a non-driving day when the rover remained stationary.