Tag: dune

NASA Mars probes discover billion-year-old dune fields frozen in time

The HiRise camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped these dune fields in Valles Marineris. They’re estimated to be a billion years old


NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Mars has a roughly 4.5-billion-year history. Thanks to our robotic explorers, we have a good sense of its current climate and atmosphere. A new study of ancient sand dunes points to what it might have been like a billion years ago on the red planet. 

A team led by Planetary Science Institute (PSI) research scientist Matthew Chojnacki took a close look a wind-driven dune fields in Valles Marineris, an area of Mars known for its extensive canyons. The dunes appear to have been preserved through lithification, a geologic process that turns sediments into rock.

The team published a study on this window into the martian past in the journal

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Preserved dune fields offer insights into Martian history

Preserved Dune Fields Offer Insights Into Martian History
Wind-driven sand dunes are common on modern Mars and the presence of certain sedimentary rock layers indicates these landforms occurred there in the past. This oblique color view from NASA’s HiRISE instrument shows a lithified field of sand dunes within Melas Chasma, Valles Marineris. The large degree of preserved morphology for many of these paleo-dunes reveals important information regarding the acting wind regime and climate prior to their cementation. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

The discovery of Martian dune fields largely preserved in the rock record for up to a billion years offers new insights on past climatic conditions on Mars.


Mapping extensive sedimentary rock deposits in the Valles Marineris region of Mars show clear evidence for preserved lithification and burial of dune fields, a paper by Planetary Science Institute Research Scientist Matthew Chojnacki says.

While modern sand dunes and other wind formed features are common on the surface of Mars

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