Star Dunes 

News Excerpt:

Recently, Scientists unveiled the first in-depth study focused on a star dune in eastern Morocco called Lala Lallia, situated within the Sahara Desert.

Star Dunes:

  • They are vaguely pyramid-shaped sand formations up to about 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall, with arms stretching out from a central peak, giving them a star-like appearance when viewed from above.
  • Star dunes are formed in areas with complex wind regimes, which means winds blow from different directions and accumulate sand at one point. Thus, big piles of sand form giant dunes.
  • Star dunes make up just under 10% of the dunes in Earth's deserts and are the tallest ones, surpassing other types such as crescent-shaped barchan dunes and straight and lengthy linear dunes. 
    • They have also been spotted on Mars and Saturn's largest moon Titan.
  • While many star dunes are known today, an ancient one, dating to about 250 million years ago in Scotland, has been preserved as sandstone in the geological record. 
  • One of the largest star dunes are found in the Badain Jaran desert in western China. They are also found in places such as the Namib Sand Sea in Namibia, large sand seas like the Grand Erg Oriental and Grand Erg Occidental in Algeria, and Rub' al Khali in Saudi Arabia. 
  • In North America, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado contains a series of them.

Key findings of the study:

  • Lala Lallia dune is about 900 years old, and it has been accumulating roughly 6,400 metric tons of sand annually as wind relentlessly blows sand through the desert.
  • Lala Lallia is moving westerly at a speed of about 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) annually.
  • The researchers used ground-penetrating radar to peer inside the dune and employed luminescence dating to determine how long Lala Lallia has taken to form, a method based on the amount of energy trapped inside the grains of sand.

About Lala Lallia star dune:

  • This star dune is situated in eastern Morocco; the term Lala Lallia means "highest sacred point" in the local Berber language.
  • It is situated within the Sahara Desert in a small sand sea called Erg Chebbi, near Merzouga town, close to the Algerian border.
  • Lala Lallia rises about 330 feet (100 meters) above the surrounding dunes and is approximately 2,300 feet (700 meters) wide.
  • It contains about 5.5 million metric tons of sand.


The study of the Lala Lallia star dune in Morocco sheds light on the formation and characteristics of star dunes, which are rare and majestic sand formations. Innovative techniques like ground-penetrating radar and luminescence dating, provide valuable insights into the dynamic processes shaping Earth's deserts.


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