Rocks in Death Valley Move By Themselves

Scientists look to crack mystery: Maybe ice?
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2010 5:20 PM CDT
Updated Aug 28, 2010 2:14 PM CDT
A view of Death Valley, California is shown in this undated file photo.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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(Newser) – Heavy rocks seems to move by themselves in one part of California's Death Valley, their means of locomotion a scientific mystery, LiveScience reports. Though no one has ever seen them move, rocks the size of large soda bottles criss-cross the surface of Racetrack Playa, leaving trails. "You don't expect 20-pound rocks to go sliding across the ground very easily, but they seem to do that on occasion," says a NASA scientist.

Scientists don't think it's pranksters (or aliens). But they have a promising theory: Temperatures in the playa—a dried out lake-bed—can drop below freezing in the winter months and allow ice to form. So maybe the rocks are sliding around on a frozen surface? "It's pretty clear these rocks are assisted by ice somehow," says the scientist. A new paper will be out this year on the subject.

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