Scientists have observed huge sand waves on the surface of Mars, which are called “megaripples”.
As part of a study led by planetary scientist Simone Silvestro from the INAF Capodimonte Astronomical Observatory in Italy, the researchers observed that Mars’s megaripples were a flowing phenomenon. This was in contrast with the theory they had been previously been working in which they were led to be believe the megaripples were static structures.
This “flowing” however, is very slow. By comparing images taken by the HiRISE camera on the MARS Reconnaissance Orbiter, the team found that the megaripples at two sites had shifted at average speeds of between 12 centimetres and 19 centimetres per year, over 9 years.
An increase in the probe data available made this discovery possible. Previous studies over shorter years didn’t detect this change as the time period was too small.
“We had the opportunity to see these megaripples moving because now we have more than 10 years of observations,” Silvestro explained to Inside Science.
In addition, a better understanding of the power possible from the winds on Mars have made it easier to understand how they impact the martian surface.