Migrating and Static Sand Ripples on Mars
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Migrating and Static Sand Ripples on Mars
ESP_032616_1275  Science Theme: Aeolian Processes
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Having operated at Mars for more than seven years, MRO and the HiRISE camera continue to make new discoveries. One of these is that many sand dunes and ripples are moving, some at rates of several meters per year.

In this observation, a dune field in a Southern hemisphere crater was observed approximately one Mars year apart, first on 2 September 2011 and then again on 11 July 2013 (a year on Mars is 687 Earth days). By taking images at the same time of year, solar illumination angles are the same, so that subtle apparent changes can be linked to true displacement on the surface and not artifacts.

In these two images, there is little distortion (a digital elevation model would remove more distortion). Here, we focus on the southern and northern part of two adjacent dunes. With an animated image, the displacement of ripples on the dunes relative to nearby rocks and dark ripples are clearly visible. It seems that the ripples on the southern dune are moving northeast, while those on the northern dune are moving west, indicating complex winds in this area. The static dark ripples may be composed of larger grains than those in the dunes and are therefore harder to move.

In most areas of Mars, darker-toned ripples are more mobile than lighter ones. This area is different, demonstrating that continued imaging of the Martian surface results in new findings and revisions of ideas.

Written by: Nathan Bridges   (28 August 2013)

This is a stereo pair with ESP_032748_1275.



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Acquisition date:11 July 2013 Local Mars time: 2:26 PM
Latitude (centered):-52.297° Longitude (East):267.101°
Range to target site:248.3 km (155.2 miles)Original image scale range:24.8 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~75 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale:25 cm/pixel and North is upMap projection:Equirectangular
Emission angle:3.2° Phase angle:59.1°
Solar incidence angle:57°, with the Sun about 33° above the horizon Solar longitude:350.0°, Northern Winter
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North azimuth:97° Sub-solar azimuth:50.4°
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North azimuth:270°Sub solar azimuth:223.1°

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For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona. The image data were processed using the U.S. Geological Survey’s ISIS3 software.