Gone with the Wind

Hello Earthlings! Hold on to your hats, because we are going to explore Planetary Wind Tunnel Simulations at the Planetary Aeolian Laboratory!

"Aeolian" processes, named after the Greek God Aeolus- God of the winds, refers to wind-driven geologic activity. This could refer to dune structures, erosion by wind, or transport of particles. In a previous post, I had mentioned about Mars having dune fields. In recent studies, Titan also has wind-blown features.

To study how particles move in different planetary conditions, we would need a simulated environment. Not just computer simulation anymore…but actually build pressure chambers that could "play" with different grain size and materials of sand. Why different sizes and material? It has been found that large particles and small particles move differently. However, extremely small particles are equally difficult to move like the big particles! We need to see different materials of sand as well to see how dark and light minerals move. That is, iron particles tend to clump on the bottom and quartz (lighter silicate) can move easier. 

Here's some facts about the Planetary Wind Tunnels:

1.) The NASA Planetary Aeolian Laboratory includes several facilities: Mars Wind Tunnel (MARSWIT), Titan Wind Tunnel (TWT), and a vortex dust devil generator (ASUVG). 

2.) Houses one of the nation's largest pressure chambers for conducting low-pressure wind experiments.

3.) The Mars Wind Tunnel goes up to speeds of 100 meters per second!

4.) The Titan Wind Tunnel is a remodeled version of the Venus Wind Tunnel that ended in 1994.

Mars Wind Tunnel. Credit: NASA

Mars Wind Tunnel. Credit: NASA

Thank you for reading and come back next week on a feature about finding Swiss Cheese on Mars! 

Caitlin Ahrens