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NASA sees 'dragon scales' on surface of Mars

The Red Planet's surface looks a lot like the scaly skin of an out-of-this-world dragon in this Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image.

This is Mars and not a close-up of Daenerys Targaryen's dragon.


With the season 7 premiere of "Game of Thrones" just around the corner, it seems everyone has a touch of dragon fever, including NASA. 

The space agency released an image on Wednesday with the evocative title "Dragon Scales of Mars." The snapshot comes from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and it shows a rugged, scale-like pattern etched into the Red Planet's surface.

The Mars landscape seen in the MRO image won't swallow sheep or breathe fire. The intriguing pattern comes from ancient interactions between Mars rocks and water, followed by a process of erosion. 

"The nature of the water responsible for the alteration, and how it interacted with the rock to form the clay, remains poorly understood," NASA says. Scientists are working to learn more about Mars' past climate. NASA notes that recent studies suggest it may not have been as Earth-like or as wet as previously thought. 

One of the MRO's primary goals is to study the history of water on Mars. The orbiter launched in 2005 and is currently in the middle of an ongoing extended mission phase.