Chinese researchers have made another new discovery while studying data acquired from China's Zhurong Mars rover, confirming that wind and sand activities on the Martian surface have recorded changes in the ancient Martian environment. The discovery, scientists said, may shed light on predicting future climate changes on Earth.
The research findings have been published online in the science journal Nature on Thursday, the China Lunar Exploration Project (CLEP) said on its official WeChat account on Monday.
Among planets in the solar system, Mars is considered to be the most similar to Earth. Scientists believe that the current state and evolutionary history of Mars may represent the "future of Earth." Therefore, the study of Martian climate evolution has long been a topic of great interest, and wind and sand activity have shaped the extensive distribution of sand dune features on the Martian surface.
"Wind and sand activities can be said to have recorded the characteristics of the late evolution and recent climate environment of Mars, as well as the process of its climate change. However, due to the lack of detailed and systematic scientific observations in situ and at close range, we still know very little about the process," said Li Chunlai, a research fellow at the National Astronomical Observatory of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
In order to address this scientific question, researchers used high-resolution cameras, navigation terrain cameras and multispectral cameras among others on the Zhurong rover to conduct joint remote sensing and close-range investigations in the landing area on the Red Planet.
Through in-depth analysis, the researchers discovered significant evidence of changes in the wind regime in the Zhurong landing area.
The evidence shows good consistency with the ice-dust cover layers found in high latitudes on Mars, indicating that the Zhurong landing area may have experienced two major climate stages marked by changes in wind direction, with a nearly 70-degree shift from northeast to northwest.
The wind-sand accumulation transformed from crescent-shaped bright dunes to longitudinal dark sand ridges.
This climate change occurred approximately 400,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age on Mars, scientists said, according to the CLEP. It is believed to have been caused by variations in the axial tilt of Mars, which resulted in a global climate transition from an ice age to an interglacial period.
Li said that this research has contributed to our understanding of the ancient climate history of Mars, providing a new perspective for the study of Mars' ancient climate and important constraints for global climate simulations on Mars. It may even provide insights for the future climate evolution of Earth, Li said.