Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dramatic Pictures Showing Evidence Of Shifting Sands On Mars

Date:
August 11, 1999
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Does Mars have shifting sands? Over the past few months the camera on board the Mars Global Surveyor has provided tantalizing evidence of surface changes on the planet as sand dunes that cover large areas show signs of being moved by the Martian wind.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Does Mars have shifting sands? Over the past few months the camera on board the Mars Global Surveyor has provided tantalizing evidence of surface changes on the planet as sand dunes that cover large areas show signs of being moved by the Martian wind.

The latest photographic evidence -- the sharpest Mars images to date -- says Cornell University astronomer Peter Thomas, indicates that the surface of Mars is "dynamic" and that the dunes have indeed been active in the few months since frost was deposited on the surface.

"This is a major finding, and through the use of this very high-resolution camera we now see real action of the geological features. This has tied current wind conditions to geological features," Thomas said.

Thomas, a member of the Mars Global Surveyor camera team and a senior researcher in the Cornell astronomy department, commented at a NASA Space Science Update today (Aug. 10, 1999) at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Other presenters in the briefing, which was broadcast via satellite on NASA television, included Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, principal investigator for the Mars Orbiter Camera instrument on the Surveyor; Jim Zimbelman, planetary geologist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian Institution's Air & Space Museum, Washington, D.C.; and Michael Meyer, Mars Surveyor 2001 program scientist in NASA's Office of Space Science.

The Mars researchers released pictures that will enable further study of these dynamic features in greater detail than ever before. Since they were first seen in Mariner 9 images of Mars from the early 1970s, the dune fields have been of great interest to researchers because of the indication that the sand is. Evidence of such changes would make it possible to measure the effectiveness of wind erosion on Mars.

Mars is a sufficiently different place today than it was two years ago when the Global Surveyor first arrived, and the new images show that the planet's weather and dust play a major role in changing the way it looks. The spacecraft's wide-angle cameras monitor the planet's weather on a daily basis, just like weather satellites above the Earth. The Martian weather has been particularly active during the past two months as spring arrived in the southern hemisphere and autumn approached in the north.

Thomas noted that researchers do know that frost itself can be blown around by wind, "but we would like to find evidence that landforms beneath are active." Now, he said, the camera has shown at a few meters' resolution "that things do move as soon as you get frost off the dunes."

One image of sand dunes just three kilometers across showed streamers of dark sand moving over the frost, Thomas said, "proof positive that sand is moving at present. This isn't just fossil landforms sitting there, having frost come and go, but there are real active dunes on the surface of Mars."

He characterized this finding as "an important question for putting all of Mars geology in context in relation to the present climate." Summing up, he said the new images show that for researchers Mars "has become a full-fledged, fully respectable planet in terms of the great variety of geologic features all over the surface. "

Mars Global Surveyor carries five science instruments designed to generate a complete global portrait of Mars and its seasonal changes during a full Martian year, the equivalent of two Earth years. The spacecraft entered its primary circular mapping orbit in February, and is just beginning its second full Martian year in orbit around the red planet.

Global Surveyor is the first mission in a long-term series of Martian explorations known as the Mars Surveyor Program, which is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA.

Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their content or availability.

-- Mars images: http://www.msss.com

-- JPL: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov

Note: JPL's news release about this discovery can be found on the web at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/releases/99/mgsnewpix.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Dramatic Pictures Showing Evidence Of Shifting Sands On Mars." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990811080626.htm>.
Cornell University. (1999, August 11). Dramatic Pictures Showing Evidence Of Shifting Sands On Mars. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990811080626.htm
Cornell University. "Dramatic Pictures Showing Evidence Of Shifting Sands On Mars." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990811080626.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins