Mars dunes moving around: Rover Opportunity and orbiter scour Red Planet’s surface.

Mars Discovery: Giant Dunes Moving Around

Mars Discovery: Giant Dunes Moving Around

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May 10 2012 2:36 PM

Mars Discovery: Giant Dunes Moving Around

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The Mars orbiter has shown the planet's giant sand dunes are actually moving around, instead of static as previously thought. The Echus Chasma, one of the largest water source regions on Mars.

Photo by ESA via Getty Images

The Martian winter is over, and scientists are scouring the planet from ground and sky.

The latest findings? Like a giant sand box, the Red Planet’s massive sculpted sand dunes are often moving around.

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Long thought to be ancient artifacts of a more windy and seismic past, dunes at the Nili Paterna crater and beyond appear static from Earth. But NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter turned its HiRise high-resolution camera on the dunes for a period of 105 days, and found the Martian mounds were moving at a pace very similar to the dune fields of Antarctica here at home.

The Mars rover Opportunity is also on the move in the new spring, headed north on the planet to study dust and bedrock.

The new data will help researchers in a better global understanding of the Martian surface and development of future robotic and human missions to our red neighbor. Maybe a sand worm hunt. Or a spice harvest?

Video produced by Paca Thomas.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.