Phenomena

Martian Ripples

Earth and Mars both feature fields of giant sand dunes. The huge dunes are shaped by the wind and miniature avalanches of sand, and their surface is marked by small ripples less than 30 centimeters apart. These little ripples are formed when sand carried by the wind impacts the dunes. But Martian dunes have a second, larger kind of ripple, too. These sinuous, curvy ripples lie about 3 meters apart and cast the dark shadows seen in the images above. On Earth we see ripples like these underwater, where water drags sand along the surface. On Mars, the same process is thought to play out with the wind, and so scientists have named these wind-drag ripples. (Image credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS; via APOD, full-res; submitted by jshoer)

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