Illustration for article titled Uh, what the hell are these v-shaped formations doing on Mars?

These objects are startlingly reminiscent of Star Trek's Federation insignia — but they're geological features inside a large crater on Mars. It's a phenomenon, says NASA, that also explains why migratory birds fly in a v-shaped formation.


Believe it or not, but these are sand dunes, and they're on the surface of a crater near Mawrth Vallis.

It's the same "V" formation that significantly boosts the efficiency and range of flying birds. It happens because all the birds, except the lead bird, fly within the upward motion of air (called upwash) from the wingtip vortices of the bird ahead. But in the case of dune fields, the spacing of each individual dune is dependant on sand supply, wind speed, and topography.

[ NASA ]

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.


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