Mars experiencing Giant Waves of Sand

Sand Storms in Mars

For the very first time, researchers are spotting large waves of Martian sand migrating from its place. This discovery has caused scrapping of a long time belief of “mega ripples” haven’t moved. Megaripples can be understood as dominantly transverse Aeolian bedforms that can form when wind-driven saltating grains travel and bind. Megaripples were in a belief that they haven’t moved for thousands of years. The Red Planet shows evidence of winds that are stronger than expected as per researchers.

An image of mars captured by the Mars Rover

How can it be easy to Spot?

Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said that it is shocking that humans can detect these types of changes in Mars. Though he has no involvement in the research. Stating that team can now measure processes on the surface of another planet that are just a couple times faster than our hair grows.

We can find megaripples on deserts of Earth too, mostly between dunes. According to researchers the waves in the sand spaced up to tens of meters apart. There are even larger prototypes of ripple that re-occur after 10 centimeters between many sand dunes.

What are Mega ripples?

Megaripples are not like dunes, they consist up of two sizes of sand grains. The top or the crests of the megaripples are covered with the Coarser, heavier grains. These heavier grains make it difficult for wind to displace the features of the ripples.

Image of Martian Sand dunes captured by NASA's orbiter

Megaripples have been spotted since the early 2000’s on Mars by Mars orbiters and rovers. But on a scale of measure, they never seemed to change this much that could be measured. This has made scientists think that the thicker atmosphere of Mars is causing the stronger winds contradicting the past studies of Mars.

Images Captured questions Existing Theories

But after capturing such an image by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter scientists believe that fewer mega ripples do moves or creeps very slowly.

Image of Martian Sand dunes captured by NASA's orbiter

Two sites were in focus by the researchers near the equator of Mars. They analyzed roughly 1100 megaripples in the McLaughlin crater and 300 within the Nili Fossae region. They searched for signs of movement by comparing time-lapse images of every site—taken 7.6 and 9.4 years apart, respectively. Talking annually the Megaripples in both regions advanced by about 10 centimeters. This includes the team reports within the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. That’s about how briskly megaripples move within the Lut Desert of Iran.

No one believed Winds were this Strong

It’s a surprise that megaripples move in the least on Mars, says Jim Zimbelman, a planetary geologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum. Just a couple of decades ago, there was no evidence that sands on Mars were mobile, he says. “None folks thought that the winds were strong enough.”

Winds on Mars could be accelerating small grains of sand, Silvestro and his colleagues suggest. Once these grains start to roll or bounce, they will act like battering rams, knocking into larger grains, and setting them in motion. This process referred to as impact-driven creep, has been observed on Earth.

The team concluded that the megaripples source was a donation of sand grains from sand Dunes. And this is so because the sand dunes travel in the same direction in which megaripples do.

Studies And Model Will Now Change

According to the studies of atmospheric models of Mars, rarely such strong winds could occur and move the megaripples. Now the team suggests that the discovery of migrating megaripples will force those models to revise.

Silvestro plans to expand his look for migrating megaripples to the entire planet. He suspects the speediest megaripples are going to be near Mars’s fastest-moving dunes. Megaripples on the move are beacons of windy conditions, which could successively kick-start dust storms, the researchers suggest. Airborne dust can blanket solar panels, reducing their efficiency, and it also can clog mechanical parts like gears. This will be difficult for Mars rovers and human habitats alike in near future.



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