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NASA Spacecraft Detects Changes in Martian Sand Dunes

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posted on May, 10 2012 @ 02:41 AM

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed that movement in sand dune fields on the Red Planet occurs on a surprisingly large scale, about the same as in dune fields on Earth.

This is unexpected because Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, is only about one percent as dense, and its high-speed winds are less frequent and weaker than Earth's.

For years, researchers debated whether sand dunes observed on Mars were mostly fossil features related to past climate, rather than currently active. In the past two years, researchers using images from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera have detected and reported sand movement.

Now, scientists using HiRISE images have determined that entire dunes as thick as 200 feet (61 meters) are moving as coherent units across the Martian landscape. The study was published online today by the journal Nature.

Read the whole paper here

Back-and-forth blinking of the below two-image animation shows movement of ripples covering a sand dune on Mars. The images are part of a study published by Nature on May 9, 2012, reporting movement of Martian sand dunes at about the same flux (volume per time) as movement of dunes in Antarctica on Earth.

The before-and-after images were taken 15 weeks apart by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The scale bar is 85 meters (279 feet). The site is part of a dune field inside the summit caldera of Nili Patera, an ancient volcano, at 8.7 degrees north latitude, 67.3 degrees east longitude.

To be continued here

This is important news to better understand how wind activity on Mars is a major agent of landscape changing and to see how it geologically works today.

posted on May, 10 2012 @ 11:25 AM
reply to post by elevenaugust

It amazes me the kind of wind activity we see on mars when you think about how very much thinner the atmosphere there is. Think about it; planetary dust storms kicked up by convection in a medium that is only 0.006 Earth Atmospheres! One of many of the solar system's wonders.

posted on May, 10 2012 @ 11:31 AM
didnt Obama campaign promiseto put astronauts on Mars

now he says 'we've been there before" and drastically cuts NASA Mars exploration...

posted on May, 10 2012 @ 06:13 PM
reply to post by Mkoll

I think that means that the sand grains are very small, so even with the thinner atmosphere they can be moved.

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