Dust Devil on Mars


Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

For such a dead planet, Mars sure has got a lot of things going on. LIke this mini tornado, as captured by camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:

A towering dust devil casts a serpentine shadow over the Martian surface in this stunning, late springtime image of Amazonis Planitia.

The length of the shadow indicates that the dust plume reaches more than 800 meters, or half a mile, in height. The tail of the plume does not trace the path of the dust devil, which had been following a steady course towards the southeast and left a bright track behind it.

The delicate arc in the plume was produced by a westerly breeze at about a 250-meter height that blew the top of the plume towards the east. The westerly winds and the draw of warmth to the south combine to guide dust devils along southeast trending paths, as indicated by the tracks of many previous dust-devils. The dust plume itself is about 30 meters in diameter.

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