Martian water played a major role in creating intriguing surface features on miniature sand dunes, scientists say.
Scientists studying data from China’s Zhurong rover have for the first time found cracked layers on tiny Martian dunes, which imply the Red Planet was a salt-rich watery world as recently as 400,000 years ago.
Since landing in Mars’ northern hemisphere in May 2021, the rover has rolled close to four nearby crescent-shaped dunes in the Utopia Planitia region to investigate their surface composition. All four of the miniature, wind-formed geological features are coated with thin, ubiquitously fractured crusts and ridges that formed thanks to melting small pockets of “modern water” sometime between 1.4 million years to 400,000 years ago, according to a new paper(opens in new tab) published Friday (April 28).
“This means a more recent time in Martian history,” Xiaoguang Qin, a scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and an author of the new study.@Space.com.