November 28, 2014

03.04.11: Alien or Aeolian?

The humble terrestrial sand dune…(Credit: Art Explosion).

This sunny Sunday morning, we’d like to point you towards an astro-video that floated through our cyber-transom. We’ve recently discovered the SETI Talks series on YouTube, and have become a hooked subscriber. These weekly talks feature a broad range of astronomers and researchers and are a fascinating look at cutting edge science as expressed by the scientists that are doing the research. A recent talk by Planetary Geologist Lori Fenton of NASA Ames describes a unique geological feature seen on very few worlds; that of the sand dune. This sublime trait only graces the surfaces of four worlds in our solar system; Mars, Venus, Titan, and the Earth.

This is the result of wind and water action and interaction with the surface of the planet, creating a dynamic place where things are actually happening at a rapid pace. I think that dunes are especially captivating as a planetary feature because it’s a trait that we can reach out and touch right here on Earth. The interaction and convective material may be different and cause variations in sorting on each world, but the study of dunes may be a critical marker in discerning key locales of interest… if Fenton and other researchers have their way, the soon to be dispatched Mars Science Lander will head towards Gale Crater on the planet Mars, and we’ll be able to visit a Martian dune field in proxy/person!

 

   

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