Patterned Dunes on Mars Have Humans Scratching Their Heads

Dunes in the Becquerel Crater 6 photos
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona
Becquerel Crater on MarsBecquerel Crater on MarsBecquerel Crater on MarsBecquerel Crater on MarsBecquerel Crater on Mars
The large collection of images of Mars the HiRISE camera has been sending back since 2006 is turning out to be a true treasure trove for scientists here on Earth, and from time to time, a large collection of mysteries just waiting to be uncovered.
NASA and the University of Arizona, who together run the HiRISE, release on a constant basis some of the images HiRISE captured, in an attempt to educate us all in regards to what’s going on up there. Most of the images they release show stunning things we can explain, but from time to time something that makes people scratch their heads makes it into the open.

The main image of this piece is part of the latter category. It was snapped by HiRISE from an altitude of 283 km (176 miles) back in 2020, but scientists just got around to making it public. It shows a portion of the Becquerel Crater, a 167 km (104 miles) diameter impact leftover that has been the object of study for previous missions as well, on account of the layered sedimentary rocks discovered there.

The place is also filled with patterned sand dunes. That’s not something that was never seen over there, and we also have patterned dunes here on Earth – if fact, one could say pretty much all sand dunes are patterned, everywhere.

The ones we have here, however, are of particular importance for the people looking at Mars for a living because they “originate upwind in this smaller crater on Becquerel’s floor. The way they are arranged “indicates a more complex wind regime than the unidirectional barchans that carve out yardangs in the layered deposit to the south. “

And this is where the scratching their heads part comes in, as scientists are now wondering “why is this different?” and “what is the original source of dune sand in this crater?”

Two more questions to add to the growing list of mysteries that is planet Mars…
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Editor's note: Gallery shows Becquerel Crater on Mars.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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