Martian Barchans

Dunes are a fascinating interplay between fluid and granular flow. This satellite photo shows a dune field on Mars, Nili Patera. The dominant direction of wind flow is from the upper right, pushing the dunes themselves slowly toward the left. Many of the dunes along the edge are barchans, crescent-shaped dunes with a long, gradual slope facing the wind and a steeper leeward side. As the wind blows, it erodes the sand on the windward slope and deposits it on the leeward side. This is how the dune migrates. Check out this close-up of a barchan to see the changes in its ripples and shape over the past couple months. (Photo credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

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