Dune trails

A Piece of Mars: The dark dunes in this 0.96×0.54 km (0.60×0.34 mi) scene are slowly migrating towards the lower left. Look closer and you’ll see brighter ripples between the dunes – the biggest ones are ~8m (26 ft) apart. They form trains in the wake of the dunes. Why? This is where the dunes

Small dunes on Mars

A piece of Mars: These dunes are some of the smallest on Mars. The smallest in this frame is ~150 m long (492 ft). But the smallest Earth dunes are ~20 m across. Why are they so much bigger on Mars? The air is thinner, so the wind has to blow stronger to lift sand

Summery dune

A piece of Mars: Last December I blogged about a picture of a sand dune taken in early northern spring. This is the same dune, without frost, now that summer has come to the northern hemisphere and all the frost is gone. It’s quite a difference. Apparently the dunes are controlled by ice in the

Whither the wind

A piece of Mars: Which way did the wind blow here? You can tell by looking at the dune and its ripples. The slip face (the avalanching slope of the dune) faces downwind, so the strongest wind here mainly blows toward the upper left. But that’s not the whole story, because, like on Earth, martian

Wintery dune

A piece of Mars: A single dune sits on the surface of Mars, not too far from the north pole. It’s early spring, but this far north the dune is still covered in white CO2 frost (as well as a thin yellow layer of airfall dust). But the sun has done some work already: the

Are you being oblique?

A piece of Mars: Barchan, or crescent dunes, are generally thought to form from winds blowing from a single direction. Reality isn’t usually that nice. Here are two barchans with crescent-shaped slip faces on their eastern (right) sides, indicating that the main dune-building winds blow from the west (left). However, ripples, an elongated dune arm,

Martian sports

A piece of Mars: In the center are two dark dunes, racing one another to jump over hurdles formed of older, now inactive dunes (or maybe those bright things are ripples, we still don’t know for sure). The dune in the lead has been slowed by this barrier, but it is starting to crawl over