These Strange Martian Shapes Are the Result of an Invisible Force Still at Play There

Wind deposits in the Ma'adim Vallis 11 photos
Photo: NASA/JPL/UArizona
Ma'adim Vallis, nadir viewMa'adim Vallis, in 3DMa'adim Vallis, nadir viewMa'adim Vallis, ortho-imageMa'adim Vallis, perspective viewMa'adim Vallis, perspective viewMa'adim Vallis, perspective viewWind deposits in the Ma'adim VallisWind deposits in the Ma'adim VallisMa'adim Vallis context map
Back in 2018, humans have witnessed first-hand the destructive force of Martian wind. This invisible force still at play on the surface of the planet caused the biggest sandstorm humans humanity was ever able to directly observe on Mars, and it had a major impact on our operations there.
At the end of May that year, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter first caught a glimpse of the roaring monster. It quickly became obvious this was no ordinary storm, as it rapidly grew in size, covering the entire planet over the next two weeks, and lasting for about another month.

Directly in the storm’s path was the Opportunity rover, a little machine NASA deposited on the Martian soil in 2004, and which had been in operation for about 15 years. Given how the rover was solar-powered, the huge amount of dust the relentless wind threw above the surface was enough to effectively kill the rover, despite NASA’s months-long attempts to revive it.

But wind is not solely destructive. It can create, too, and it is free to do so as the only force that can presently have an impact on how things go on the Red Planet. Proof of that are the incredible photos released earlier this September by NASA and the University of Arizona.

The images show a region called Ma'adim Vallis, a 700-km (435 miles) long, 20-km wide (12 miles) outflow channel on the planet – larger than the Grand Canyon here on Earth. They were captured by the same piece of tech that detected the storm, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and its powerful HiRISE camera.

NASA says what we’re seeing here are “beautiful deposits on the floor of Maadim Vallis,” brought there by wind and laid down in formations that look like anything from the Pyramids of Giza to murals.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows the Ma'adim Vallis region of 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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