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Billion-year-old Martian dunes reveal planet’s history

7 Oct 2020, 14:00 UTC
Billion-year-old Martian dunes reveal planet’s history
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Here is a region on Mars where sand dunes have been compacted over time into solid rock. This image, taken by the HiRISE high-resolution camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, zooms in on the now-solid sand dunes in Melas Chasma, part of the extensive Valles Marineris canyon network on the red planet. Image via NASA/ JPL/ Planetary Science Institute.
On October 5, 2020, a team of scientists announced the discovery of a group of one-billion-year-old Martian sand dunes in the planet’s Valles Marineris region. This rare find of paleo-dunes led scientists to a second big discovery. That is, climate, atmospheric pressure and landscape evolution on Mars have remained relatively consistent over the past billion years.
The research – led by planetary geologist Matthew Chojnacki at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona – was published in a paper in the peer-reviewed Journal of Geophysical Research Planets. A statement from Chojnacki and his colleagues explained that extensive mapping of sedimentary rock deposits within Melas Chasma – the widest segment of the Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars – provided the evidence needed to date the dune fields and to form an understanding, not only of what Mars was like 1 billion ...

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