Between Mars and Earth, this is what is common

Between Mars and Earth, this is what is common



Mars has always been the planet that has been the most in the spotlight.


Earlier, it was mostly because many saw water on the planet simply because there were a lot of ‘canals’ there that astronomers of those days saw through their telescopes.


Now, with satellites sent by humans zipping around in its orbit and various robot vehicles drilling holes and sifting through its soil and rock; the attention has notably shifted.


From water, the attention has shifted to wind.


Yes, unlike on our Moon, there is wind on Mars and a new study is looking to understand it by focusing on what happens when two dunes collide, just like it happens on Earth.


The findings of the study, by Mackenzie Day of the University of California Los Angeles, were published in the journal ‘Geology’.


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“Overall, this work leverages both knowledge of Mars and knowledge of Earth to understand the other planet and opens the door to improving; how we interpret wind across planetary bodies further into the solar system,” Day averred.

Dunes and dune-like sand patterns are found across the solar system – on Mars, Venus, Titan, Comet 67P, and Pluto. On Earth; weather stations measure the wind speed and direction, allowing us to predict and understand airflow in the atmosphere.

Dunes develop when wind-blown sand organises into patterns; most often in deserts and arid or semi-arid parts of the world. Every continent on Earth has dune fields.


On other planets and planetary bodies, we do not yet have weather stations measuring the winds (with a few recent exceptions on Mars only).


Without a way to directly measure the wind on the surface of another planet; we can use the patterns in dunes to interpret what the wind must be doing; based on our knowledge of dunes on Earth.


“On Earth, we know that dunes collide, combine, link, and merge all the time. This is what drives changes in dune-field patterns over time. When this happens; the dune-dune interaction leaves behind a particular pattern in the sand, but that pattern is usually covered by actively moving sand and difficult to see without special tools,” said Day.


On Mars, many dunes look and behave similar to dunes on Earth, but in addition; Mars hosts patterns of organised sand that are dune-like but have some differences that have yet to be explained by the scientific community.


Whether or not these unusual features; sometimes called “transverse aeolian ridges” or “mega ripples” are formed like dunes has been long debated.

ALSO READ: NASA insight lander peeks into Mars Core for the first time, reveals surprise



“In this work, I show that these unusual wind-blown sand ridges sometimes show on their surfaces the pattern that forms when two dunes combine,” Day added.


In the Iapygia region of Mars, transverse aeolian ridges incorporated both light and dark sands; leading to light-dark banding in the upwind side of the ridges.


Banding occurring only on one side of the ridges suggests that the banding formed as the ridges migrated.


Importantly, the dune-interaction pattern known from Earth can be seen in some ridges where the banding is truncated and then reconnects; just like two dunes touching and then combining downwind, ANI reported.


The pattern associated with dune interactions only forms when two dunes combine; therefore seeing it in these Martian sand ridges demonstrates that these enigmatic features behave like dunes on Earth.


“Just like dunes on Earth, transverse aeolian ridges on Mars migrate, combine, and develop complex patterns in response to the wind,” Day said.

About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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