July 5 () –
Data from China’s Zhurong rover in the dunes south of Utopia Planitia suggest that Mars experienced a major change in weather that accompanied changes in prevailing winds.
This change probably occurred about 400,000 years ago, which coincides with the end of the last glacial period on Mars.
Researchers from various institutions of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with colleagues from Brown University, evaluated the surface structure and chemical composition of Martian dunes to determine the age of the sand structures and the prevailing directions of the wind at different locations near the landing site of the Zhurong rover.
The team found that the prevailing wind direction in the south of Utopia Planitia shifted nearly 70° from northeast to northwest, eroding crescent-shaped dunes formed during the last glacial period into dark longitudinal ridges after the last Martian ice age. .
The study was published in Nature on July 5, reports Eureka Alert.
“Exploration and research on the evolution of the climate of Mars has been of great concern for a long time. Mars is the most Earth-like planet in the Solar System. Understanding Martian climate processes promises to uncover details of evolution and the history of Earth and other planets in our Solar System,” said Professor LI Chunlai of the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), principal investigator of the study.
Previous research suggested that the Martian climate has changed over time, but the inability to directly measure and sample geological formations on Mars limited scientists’ ability to better validate and characterize the planet’s climate processes. The LI team used high-resolution orbital cameras and the Zhurong rover’s multispectral and terrain cameras, surface composition analyzers, and meteorological measuring instruments. to finally obtain in situ data directly from the Martian surface.
The research team estimated that a change in the angle of Mars’ axis of rotation caused the planet to emerge from its most recent ice age. The effects of this change were later captured by the morphology, orientation, physical properties and stratigraphy, or bedding, of the dunes on the southern Utopian Plain of Mars, where the Zhurong rover landed.
The study was designed to integrate sliding-scale data of dune formations and weather conditions to not only confirm a change in prevailing wind direction with the end of the last ice age, but also improve the general circulation models used to predict finer scale changes in seasonality. direction of the wind. It is important to note that the prevailing wind data and dune stratigraphy in the rover landing area They were consistent with the presence of ice and dust sheets found in the planet’s mid- and high-latitudes.
Much effort is being invested in characterizing the ancient climate of Mars throughout the Amazonian epoch, which began between 3.55 and 1.8 billion years ago and continues to this day.
“Understanding the Amazonian climate is essential to explain the current Martian landscape, volatile matter reservoirs, and atmospheric state, and to relate these current observations and active processes to models of the ancient climate of Mars. Observations of the current climate of Mars they can help refine the physics evolutionary models of the Martian climate and landscape, and even form new paradigmsLi said.
In situ studies on the Martian surface are of enormous scientific value, and the Zhurong rover will be busy collecting data for some time. “We will continue to study the Amazonian and current climate to advance knowledge about the last two billion years of Martian climate history, including your environment and processesLi said.