The Dunes of Mars #SpaceSaturday

There was a period of time, during the early period of observing Mars with a telescope, the unusual formations on the surface of the red planet were thought to be canals. Specifically, many believed that mars had canals that once held water, canals that may be non-naturally occurring. We now know that Mars does not have canals — but it does have some pretty strange dunes. Here’s more from Astronomy Now:

Stanford University scientists have now used an AI model to analyze a million Martian dunes and uncover how these sandy waves form on our sister planet…. The results, published Nov. 22 in Nature Communications, suggest scholars going forward can use fossilized versions of these structures to reconstruct the atmospheric history of Mars. That’s because there is a precise and consistent mathematical relationship between atmospheric density and the size of windblown ripples and dunes at all but the smallest scales.

“This is particularly important because it is thought that Mars used to have a thicker atmosphere in the past, perhaps sustaining Earth-like surface conditions,” said senior study author Mathieu Lapôtre, an assistant professor of geological sciences in the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. “However, it lost most of it, and we don’t really know when, how fast, and why.”

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