Billion-year-old sand dunes on Mars give scientists peek into planet’s windy past

The HiRise digital camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped these dune fields in Valles Marineris. They’re estimated to be a billion years previous

NASA/JPL/College of Arizona

Mars has a roughly 4.5-billion-year historical past. Due to our robotic explorers, we’ve a superb sense of its present local weather and ambiance. A brand new examine of historical sand dunes factors to what it might need been like a billion years in the past on the pink planet. 

A team led by Planetary Science Institute (PSI) research scientist Matthew Chojnacki took an in depth look a wind-driven dune fields in Valles Marineris, an space of Mars identified for its in depth canyons. The dunes seem to have been preserved by lithification, a geologic course of that turns sediments into rock.

The staff printed a study on this window into the martian past in the journal JGR Planets in August. “Primarily based on the dune deposit’s relationships to different geologic items and trendy erosion charges we estimate these to be roughly a billion years previous,” said Chojnacki in a PSI statement on Monday

A picture from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRise digital camera reveals a few of these intriguing dunes that now act like time capsules.  

The dunes bear a resemblance to present formations seen on Mars, which supplies scientists clues to the circumstances way back. “Due to the duneforms’ measurement and spatial preparations, which aren’t that a lot completely different to trendy equivalents, we recommend that the local weather and atmospheric stress to have been just like that of up to date Mars,” mentioned Chojnacki.

The analysis provides to an ever-growing understanding of Mars’ geologic historical past and simply how completely different the pink planet is from Earth. Whereas Mars is a dry and dusty place now, current analysis suggests there may be hidden briny lakes tucked away under the southern ice cap.

It is a advanced image that is rising, however the historical past of the preserved dunes offers us insights into one fascinating space of Mars and the way constant the climate forecast could have been: windy even a billion years in the past.

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Amanda Kooser