Research

Gravity Waves on Mars

It may look like grainy, black and white static from a 20th-century television, but this animation shows what may be the first view of gravity waves seen from the ground on another planet. The animation was stitched together from photos taken by the Mars Curiosity rover’s navigation camera, and it shows a line of clouds approaching the rover’s position.

Gravity waves are common on Earth, appearing where disturbances in a fluid propagate like ripples on a pond. In the atmosphere, this can take the form of stripe-like wave clouds downstream of mountains; internal waves under the ocean are another variety of gravity wave. If these are, in fact, Martian gravity waves, they are likely the result of wind moving up and over topography, much like their Terran counterparts. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University; research credit: J. Kloos and J. Moores, pdf; via Science; h/t Cocktail Party Physics)

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