Daily winds shift sands of Martian dune field

Nili Patera dune fields on Mars

Satellite images of the Nili Patera dune fields on Mars show which way (yellow arrows) ripples in sand move through the area over time.

Francois Ayoub, Caltech

Martian winds may stir the Red Planet’s sand more often than scientists thought. Previous observations and experiments suggested that wind speeds strong enough to move the planet’s sand would be rare. However, new images of the Nili Patera dune fields taken with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that the sand in that region moves every day. The amount the sand moves appears to be tied to the seasons, researchers report September 30 in Nature Communications.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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