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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mars has winds 'strong enough to shift sand dunes' - 16th Nov 2011

Sand dunes are a common feature of Mars – and now scientists believe the red planet has winds powerful enough to move them around.

Experts have known for a long time that it often blows a gale on our cosmic neighbour – but until now it wasn’t thought the air was dense enough to move the landscape.

The atmosphere is only one per cent of Earth’s pressure, which means they would have to blow extremely fast to lift molecules.

However, U.S. researchers studied images of sand dunes taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, noticing that some had shifted around three feet in a year – and concluding that only wind could be responsible.

Dunes in the polar regions often shift when frozen carbon dioxide changes straight to gas as the planet warms, but the dunes the researchers from the SETI Institute and U.S Geological Survey examined were in Mars’ tropical regions. Read More