Changing Climes on Mars

HiRISE image showing some terrain in Utopia Planitia.

China’s Zhurong rover explored Utopia Planitia on Mars from May 2021 to December 2022. During that expedition, the rover uncovered evidence of a major shift in climate that took place some 400,000 years ago. Originally, the area was covered in crescent-shaped barchan dunes formed by winds from the northeast. But after Mars exited its last ice age — courtesy of a shift in its rotational axis — the winds shifted around 70 degrees, coming from the northwest. Those shifted winds eroded the barchan dunes and caused new transverse ridges to form atop them. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona; research credit: J. Liu et al.; via Gizmodo)

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