12-mile-high Martian dust devil caught in act

Apr 05, 2012 By DC Agle
A Martian dust devil roughly 12 miles (20 kilometers) high was captured winding its way along the Amazonis Planitia region of Northern Mars on March 14, 2012 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Despite its height, the plume is little more than three-quarters of a football field wide (70 yards, or 70 meters). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA

(PhysOrg.com) -- A Martian dust devil roughly 12 miles high (20 kilometers) was captured whirling its way along the Amazonis Planitia region of Northern Mars on March 14. It was imaged by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Despite its height, the plume is little more than three-quarters of a football field wide (70 yards, or 70 meters).

Dust devils occur on Earth as well as on Mars. They are spinning columns of air, made visible by the dust they pull off the ground. Unlike a tornado, a dust devil typically forms on a clear day when the ground is heated by the sun, warming the air just above the ground. As heated air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler air above it, the air may begin to rotate, if conditions are just right.

The image was taken during late northern spring, two weeks short of the northern summer solstice, a time when the ground in the northern mid-latitudes is being heated most strongly by the sun.

The has been examining the Red Planet with six science instruments since 2006. Now in an extended mission, the orbiter continues to provide insights into the planet's ancient environments and how processes such as wind, and seasonal frosts continue to affect the today. This mission has returned more data about Mars than all other orbital and surface missions combined.

More than 21,700 images taken by HiRISE are available for viewing on the instrument team's website: hirise.lpl.arizona.edu .  Each observation by this telescopic camera covers several square miles, or square kilometers, and can reveal features as small as a desk.

Explore further: Computer simulation suggests early Earth bombarded by asteroids and comets

More information: For more about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, see www.nasa.gov/mro

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User comments : 7

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deatopmg
not rated yet Apr 05, 2012
What was the soil temp? The atmospheric temp profile?
Vendicar_Decarian
Apr 05, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
axemaster
5 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2012
So what was the wind speed in the dust devil? Is there any way to know?
Tennex
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2012
Interestingly, the solar vortices hit their record recently too.. http://www.physor...sun.html
Russkiycremepuff
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2012
It casts a long shadow. Strange how it starts resembling a foot with the dust rising from the heel.

http://www.nasa.g...404.html
kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2012
It is all a joke...
CardacianNeverid
5 / 5 (2) Apr 06, 2012
It casts a long shadow. Strange how it starts resembling a foot with the dust rising from the heel -YAPC

See any transparent cattle there yet Pirouette/Ritchie? Maybe it's a cow's foot!
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (2) Apr 06, 2012
Clearly it is one of RichieTard's transparent Martians having a smoke.