Phenomena

The Winds of Mars

The Martian atmosphere is scant compared to Earth’s, but its winds still sculpt and change the surface regularly. The average atmospheric pressure on Mars is only 0.6% of Earth’s, and the density is similarly low at 1.7% of Earth’s. Despite this thinness, Martian winds are still substantial enough to shift sands on a daily basis, as shown above. These two images were taken one Martian day apart, showing how sand ripples moved and how the Curiosity rover’s tracks can be quickly obscured. Part of the reason Mars’ scant atmosphere is still so good at moving sand is that Martian gravity is roughly one-third of ours; if the sand is lighter, it doesn’t take as much force to move! (Image credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS)

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