OCT 11, 2017 03:12 PM PDT

MRO Image Offers Potential Clues About the Mechanisms Behind Sand Formation on Mars

Mars is one of our closest planetary neighbors, and yet we still have so much to learn about it.

One of the questions that planetary scientists have yet to answer all these years is where all of the sand composing Mars’ sand comes from, and thanks to an image snapped by the Context Camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), we might finally have a lead.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The image depicts a sizeable semi-circular depression on Mars’ surface containing sediments of all different colors, and NASA says the darker ones might tell a story that’s instrumental to the planet’s excess of dunes.

Related: Here's why Mars is dry and lifeless today

The space agency explains that the darker sediments are being eroded away by bedrock in the region photographed, and the downslope lineations you see just underneath everything are indicative of a gravitational feed.

As it would seem, this evidence supports the concept that wind alone isn’t responsible for moving the vast amounts of sand that creates the dunes we see on Mars’ surface today. Instead, this erosion process might be behind a lot of it.

Moreover, this sand-formation process could be more widespread and happening from one depression to the next.

NASA goes on to reveal that as sand grains are formed, the wind picks them up and moves them around, wearing them down through a process called comminution. As it happens, the larger-sized sand grains break into smaller ones.

Many of the particles break apart to become so small over time that they have little effect on dune formation. With that in mind, sand formation needs to be a constant process, or else the dunes would cease to exist.

Related: Did previous space rock impacts make Mars more habitable?

We still have much to learn about the Martian surface, but as missions like that of the MRO and Curiosity Rover continue, we will keep collecting valuable data that could answer are seemingly-endless questions.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 08, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 08, 2018
Here's Why NASA is Sending a Probe to the Sun
An upcoming NASA probe will fly closer to the Sun than any before it. Known as the Parker Solar Probe, this spacecraft will study the Sun and many of its q...
AUG 14, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 14, 2018
Astronomers Spy Supermassive Black Hole At the Center of An Ultracompact Dwarf Galaxy
It’s not uncommon for astronomers to find supermassive black holes at the center of massive galaxies, but it is somewhat unusual for astronomers to s...
SEP 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 09, 2018
Curiosity Rover Captures Stunning Panorama Following Successful Drill Sampling
NASA’s Curiosity rover currently sits at the forefront of the American space agency’s web page this week after capturing a breath-taking 360-de...
SEP 26, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 26, 2018
Do the TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanets Have What it Takes to Support Life?
Among all the extrasolar systems astronomers have discovered to date, the TRAPPIST-1 system is unquestionably one of the most intriguing. Orbiting the host...
OCT 29, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 29, 2018
Here's How NASA Tests Martian Parachutes
NASA uses parachute systems throughout the solar system to ensure spacecraft land safely on other planetary bodies. One of the most prominent examples is M...
NOV 03, 2018
Earth & The Environment
NOV 03, 2018
The battle of the scientists vs. Hawaiin conservationists, featuring: a telescope
The controversy between Hawaiian conservationists and scientists intensifies with the Supreme Court’s recent approval of the 18-story Thirty Meter Te...
Loading Comments...