The Martian was only a movie, but the blowing sand that drove the plot really does influence Mars today—and is now a source of intrigue for scientists studying the planet. Investigators with NASA’s Curiosity rover are exploring the planet’s dark sand dunes and have discovered structures thought to be unlike any on Earth: ripples spaced about 3 meters apart, intermediate in size between the little ripples and big dunes found on both planets. Scientists aren’t sure how they form, but they think the density of the thin martian atmosphere plays a role in shaping them.
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