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Saturday April 20, 2024

Scientists reveal secrets of Earth’s magnificent desert star dunes

The study focused upon a star dune in eastern Morocco called Lala Lallia

By REUTERS
March 05, 2024
Tribesmen lead their camels through the dunes of the Liwa desert after a rare rainstorm. — AFP/File
Tribesmen lead their camels through the dunes of the Liwa desert after a rare rainstorm. — AFP/File

LONDON: They are among the wonders of our deserts: star dunes, the vaguely pyramid-shaped sand formations up to about 1,000 feet tall with arms stretching out from a central peak to give them a star-like appearance when viewed from above.

Scientists on Monday unveiled the first in-depth study of a star dune, revealing the internal structure of these geological features and showing how long it took for one of them to form - more quickly than expected but still a process unfolding over many centuries.

The study focused upon a star dune in eastern Morocco called Lala Lallia, meaning “highest sacred point” in the local Berber language, situated within the Sahara Desert in a small sand sea called Erg Chebbi about 5-km from the town of Merzouga, close to the border with Algeria. Lala Lallia rises about 330 feet above the surrounding dunes and is approximately 2,300 feet wide, containing about 5-1/2 million metric tons of sand.