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NASA captures images of dust devil on Mars

Summer breeze on Mars spins up a whirlwind

This sequence of images shows a dust-carrying whirlwind, called a dust devil, scooting across the ground inside Gale Crater, as observed on the local summer afternoon of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover's 1,597th Martian day, or sol (Feb. 1, 2017).
This sequence of images shows a dust-carrying whirlwind, called a dust devil, scooting across the ground inside Gale Crater, as observed on the local summer afternoon of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover's 1,597th Martian day, or sol (Feb. 1, 2017).

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.

NASA released an animated image showing a dust devil on the surface of Mars. NASA published, on Mars as on Earth, dust devils are whirlwinds that result from sunshine warming the ground, prompting convective rising of air that has gained heat from the ground. Observations of Martian dust devils provide information about wind directions and interaction between the surface and the atmosphere.

According to NASA, set within a broader southward view from the rover's Navigation Camera, the rectangular area outlined in black was imaged multiple times over a span of several minutes to check for dust devils. Images from the period with most activity are shown in the inset area. The images are in pairs that were taken about 12 seconds apart, with an interval of about 90 seconds between pairs. Timing is accelerated and not fully proportional in this animation.

A dust devil is most evident in the 10th, 11th and 12th frames. In the first and fifth frames, dust blowing across the ground appears as pale horizontal streak. Contrast has been modified to make frame-to-frame changes easier to see. A black frame is added between repeats of the sequence.

Here are some fast facts from NASA:

› Wind is a dominant force shaping landscapes on Mars, despite the thin air.
› A recent study supports the idea that a mountain that is oddly in the middle of a Martian crater was formed by wind subtracting other material after the crater had been filled to the brim with sediments.
› Modern winds in the crater show effects such as dusty whirlwinds, shifting sand and active dunes.
› NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has begun investigating linear-shaped dunes during the crater's windy summer season.

You can read more about NASA's Mars rover Curiosity and the landscape of Mars here...


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