NASA confirms that big parts of frozen carbon dioxide, or for most people dry ice, might float down sand dunes on Mars. The floating is accomplished by pillows of gas that work in a similar way to hovercrafts. (Albeit tiny ones.) Leaving long trenches behind that have been captured by NASA camera High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). One NASA researcher Serina Diniega started day dreaming, and spoke about her dream of one day snowboarding down a Martian sand dune, on a hovercraft version of a block of dry ice. Serina Diniega is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In order to fully understand how these trenches are made on Mars, probably not by Martians snowboarding down the hills, NASA confirms that their researchers performed several experiments on sand dunes, in Utah, and California. (Before that, they had studied the pictures in great detail, and they could find an explanation for the enigmatic class of gullies. After this they started experimenting.) The most significant difference between gullies on earth, the trenches if you will, and the ones on Mars is that on Earth there is a lot of litter at the bottom of the sloping side of the gully. However on Mars there probably is just a large hole at the end of it. NASA needs more evidence in order to be able to confirm this theory. For now of course, it wouldn’t be wise to go snowboarding down a Martian sand dune on a block of dry ice, because you might end up in a large hole.
The snowboarding on Mars fanatic, and NASA planetary scientist Serina, wanted to explain a bit further. She confirms that the litter at the end of the Earth gullies is formed because there are dregs that carry water down the slope, therefore matter that comes loose from the top is brought down by dregs all the way to the bottom. There it gathers, and is seen as litter that is scattered in all directions. However the gullies observed on mars do not carry anything. The dried ice actually whittles its way down the slope, and creates the linear structure by shoving the matter to the sides. Of course this is very similar to actual snowboarding on snow, the snow also gets shoved to the side in order to create a path. (However it might not always be so linear, and neat as the miniature hovercraft block of dry ice does it down a Martian sand dune.)
Diniega wrote the report on the Martian gullies together with, Candice Hansen. Candice wanted to add to the things Serina already said, by talking about how active Mars actually is. In addition, apparently, Earth is very similar in ways to Mars, but this formation of the gullies is a typical Mars thing, and won’t be found on Earth. Unless you recreate the process, and you buy a block of dry ice. If the snowboarding will feel the same as it might feel down a Martian sand dune remains to be seen. We need to wait until NASA confirms that theory as well.
By Georgina Pijttersen