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The Formation of Sand on Mars Sounds Like Something Out of Science Fiction

Sand is eventually reduced to dust through wind erosion, so scientists have been searching for new sources that regenerate the sand dunes on Mars, given its lack of significant water and thin atmosphere. A new laboratory study shows small amounts of ice subjected to Martian summer temperatures and atmospheric pressure begin to boil and evaporate, levitating sand and transporting above the sediment; this type of erosion could explain the generation of new sand on the planet.

The Formation of Sand on Mars Sounds Like Something Out of Science Fiction
Martian sand clumps could act like tiny hovercrafts. (NASA/JPL)

Recent images from Mars suggest that new sand continues to form there, baffling scientists as to its source. New evidence indicates sand may generate from small amounts of water that boils and then levitates sand from the sediment, creating significant erosion across the Martian landscape.

The Life Cycle of Sand

Sand is created by weathering and erosion, which typically include the forces of wind, water or ice. Erosion breaks down pieces of rock or soil, and wind provides a strong mechanism for moving those pieces around. Yet, sand has a limited lifespan, and will eventually be turned to dust by the amount of forceful contact it experiences with wind along the way. This is commonly known to occur on Mars where a range of red dust hues covers the planet.

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