Sand Movement on Mars Differs From That On Earth, And Scientists Found Out Why

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The process through which the sand movement takes place on Mars and sculpts its dunes have been a mystery for a long time for the scientists, but recent analysis might elucidate this and show precisely how Martian wind, atmosphere, and topography affect the way the surface of Mars looks.

The thin atmosphere makes sand movement on Mars slower

Because of the thin atmosphere of Mars, considering that Martian atmospheric pressure is equivalent to only 0.6 percent of the Earth’s sea-level atmospheric pressure, winds on Mars don’t actually move large quantities sand excepting the huge dust storm that happens occasionally and triggers the entire planet.

This aspect makes Martian wind quite weak, as backed up by scientist Matthew Chojnacki of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Lab that states that there’s not enough wind energy to shift a considerable amount of sand on Mars. In fact, on Mars, this movement is roughly eight times slower than on our planet.

To find out whether the Red Planet’s surface is suffering this kind of transformation or not, scientists examined 54 dunes fields consisting of 495 individual dunes between 2 and 120 meters in height, throughout a period of two and five Martian years. This was done through the data collected by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to analyze the dynamics of dunes and their migrations.

Three active zones were identified

The results show that the movement was more prominent in three areas. Namely, that happens at Syrtis Major Planum, a dark spot located somewhere between the northern lowlands and the southern highlands, Hellespontus Montes a 711 kilometers mountain range situated between the Noachis Terra, and the Hellas Planitia impact crater. It also takes place on the circumpolar ergs of the Olympia and Abalos Undae, locations which are quite different from each other considering many aspects, but they all have harsh transitions in topography as well as surface temperature.

This is not something you can witness on Earth, as the specialists stated, since the factors of work on our planet differentiate from those from Mars. Aspects like groundwater or growing flora hinder the dune sand movement.


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