NASA spacecraft spots Star Trek logo on Mars

NASA has discovered a dune in the shape of Starfleet, the famous logo from Star Trek on Mars, a new picture from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) showed. The MRO has been in Mars' orbit since 2006.  NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been boldly going where no one has gone before completing its 60,000th trip around the Red Planet last month.  It has revealed many things about Mars and offered insights into how the planet’s weather has affected its geography over millions and sometimes billions of years. MRO HiRISE is operated by the University of Arizona. The spotting of the logo can be paralleled to the face on Mars phenomenon.  It was taken on June 12 near Mars' Hellas Planitia. This could be a fluke occurrence caused by the movement of wind, lava, and other natural forces that sculpt the landscape of the Red Planet.

Mars is a dusty, windy place, and as such it has many areas that are covered in dunes. This particularly pop-culture-friendly dune is actually almost entirely gone, having been blown away by winds long ago, but its outline remains thanks to some kind of ancient eruption that caused lava to flow across it.

The dune feature is located in, a large plain within the Hellas impact basin in the southern hemisphere of Mars. An interaction of dunes, lava, and wind formed the chevron shape visible in the picture, according to the statement. MRO has photographed many other chevrons on Mars, so we're guessing this is not the first time it spotted one shaped like a Star Trek logo. The shape was created when the crescent-shaped dune was surrounded by lava before solidifying.

Scientists working with the HiRISE instrument have spent years studying the features they see in Mars images, and they think they have a good sense of how this particular shape came to be. The story starts with crescent-shaped sand dunes where wind and surface interacted. This particular chevron is the product of a volcanic eruption at the bottom of an impact basin, a long time ago. When the lava cooled and hardened, it did so around the dunes. But the Martian winds continued to blow, and eventually the sands of the dunes scattered, leaving just the lava behind.

These casts are called ghost dunes, and although they're known here on Earth, their presence on Mars has only been recently explored. In the Hellas Planitia, there are around 300 of these formations, and a further 480 have been spotted in a region called the Noctis Labyrinthus, filled with a maze of valleys.

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