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Mars has winds powerful enough to shift sand dunes

Last Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 12:57

London: Scientists believe Mars has winds powerful enough to move sand dunes on the planet’s surface around.

It has been known for a long time that the red planet often blows a gale on our cosmic neighbour – but until now experts were aware that the air was dense enough to move the landscape, the Daily Mail reported.

The atmosphere on the planet is only one per cent of our Earth’s pressure, which means they would have to blow extremely fast to lift molecules.

However, US researchers studied images of sand dunes taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and noticed that some had shifted around three feet in a year, and concluded that only wind could be responsible.

Dunes in the polar regions often shift when frozen carbon dioxide changes straight to gas as the planet warms, but the dunes the researchers from the SETI Institute and U.S Geological Survey examined were in Mars’ tropical regions.

Focusing on the Arabia Terra and Meridiani regions, they measured migration rates of two groups of ripples in the sand in a dune field in Meridiani Planum and found that dunes advanced about 0.4-1 metres in a Martian year, which is 687 days.

The study shows clear evidence that wind-driven dune activity occurs regularly on Mars today.


First Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 12:57

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