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Irish scientists map winds and sand dune evolution on Mars

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Irish scientists map winds and sand dune evolution on Mars

Irish scientists map winds and sand dune evolution on Mars
November 06
12:19 2015

A trio of Irish scientists has, for the first time, been able to map the winds and sand dune evolution on Mars, by using image data from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which could one day help humankind establish a colony on the Red Planet.

The resolution of the HiRISE data is so fine that the team was able to view individual ripples in the sand on Mars 225 million kilometres away from Earth.

Assistant professor of geography in the School of Natural Sciences in Trinity College Dublin, Dr Mary Bourke, collaborated with Professor Derek Jackson at the University of Ulster and Dr Thomas Smyth at Flinders University to make the discoveries. The team’s findings have just been published in leading journal Nature Communications.

They worked with data specifically from the Proctor Crater region on the southern highlands of Mars, and discovered that ripples on the dunes moved around 1.5 metres per year :

“There’s a lot of global climatic models [for Mars], but they tend to only measure the wind at either 100m above the surface or at a minimum height of 20m, so we need to know what’s happening right at the surface. Wind is the most important process on the surface of Mars today. It’s the one thing that’s doing all the work in terms of the geology of the planet”, said Dr Mary Bourke.

By being able to easily and accurately model with 3D topographical data a particular point of Mars, time, money and the lives of future astronauts could be saved when choosing future landing sites and determining whether it would be a safe and habitable place to live.

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