Comparison of Ventifact Orientations and Recent Wind Direction Indicators on the Floor of Jezero Crater, Mars

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Abstract

Wind-abraded rocks and aeolian bedforms have been observed at the Mars 2020 Perseverance landing site, providing evidence for recent and older wind directions. This study reports orientations of aeolian features measured in Perseverance images to infer formative wind directions. It compares these measurements with orbital observations, climate model predictions, and wind data acquired by the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer. Three-dimensional orientations of flute textures on rocks, regolith wind tails extending from behind obstacles, and other aeolian features were measured using Digital Terrain Models derived from Mastcam-Z and navigation camera (Navcam) stereo images. Orientations of rock flutes measured in images acquired through Sol (Martian day) 400 yielded a mean azimuth of 94° ± 7° (wind from the west). However, similar measurements of regolith wind tails indicate that recent sand-driving winds have been blowing from the east-southeast, nearly the opposite direction (mean azimuth = 285° ± 15°). Atmospheric modeling generally predicts net annual sand transport from the east-southeast at present, consistent with Perseverance regolith wind tail and orbital observations. The orientation of ventifact flutes thus suggests that they were formed under a different climate regime. Differences in orientations of recent and paleo-wind indicators have been noted at other Mars landing sites and may result from major orbital/axial changes that can cause significant changes in atmospheric circulation. Orientation differences between modern and older wind direction indicators at Jezero are useful clues to the climate history of the region.

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Herkenhoff, K. E., Sullivan, R. J., Newman, C. E., Paar, G., Baker, M., Viúdez-Moreiras, D., … Nuñez, J. I. (2023). Comparison of Ventifact Orientations and Recent Wind Direction Indicators on the Floor of Jezero Crater, Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 128(3). https://doi.org/10.1029/2022JE007599

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