NASA’s Rover Captures A Whirling Dust Devil On Mars

Posted: Apr 4 2016, 9:13am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 4 2016, 9:56pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


NASA’s Rover Captures a Whirling Dust Devil on Mars
A dust devil swirls on Mars' Meridiani Planum region. Credit: NASA

A terrifying dust devil is captured by NASA's Opportunity rover.

After spending thousands of days on Mars, NASA’s Opportunity rover stumbled across something really spectacular and snapped it. It was a terrifying dust devil swirling in the red planet’s Meridiani Planum region.

“This is one of the best dust devils that we have seen in Meridiani Planum,” Ray Arvidson, Opportunity's deputy principal investigator told Mashable. "We are lucky to have captured this one in an image.”

Mars is known for generating fearsome dust devils on its surface. Though the atmosphere of the Mars is thinner than the Earth but this extremely thin air can cause to bring dust storms and these dust storms can cover the entire planet and last for months. 

Dust devils on Mars form the same way they do in deserts on Earth. "You need strong surface heating, so the ground can get hotter than the air above it… so they begin spinning horizontally, forming vertical columns – and starting a dust devil.” Mark T. Lemmon, associate research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas wrote in NASA blog.

It is quite rare to catch a dust devil whirling on an alien surface but it’s not entirely impossible to observe one or two during a mission. In 2005, another rover on Mars named Spirit captured a dust devil while moving across the Martian terrain. And it was a gigantic dust devil indeed, almost 10 times larger than any tornado on Earth. Then in 2012, a dust devil that was 12 mile high was caught on camera. The monster dust devil was captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that was passing over planet’s Amazonis Planitia region.

But it was the first time when NASA’s Opportunity rover spotted a dust devil on Martian surface since it landed the planet in 2004. Opportunity rover was send to Mars with the purpose of exploring its surface and to determine the composition of its minerals, rocks and soils. The rover has spend more than 4,000 days on Mars so far and continues to beam back images to the Earth. 


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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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