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: SpaceX making Easter delivery of station supplies (Update 2)

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

Related Stories

Mars orbiter catches twister in action

Mar 08, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- An afternoon whirlwind on Mars lofts a twisting column of dust more than half a mile (800 meters) high in an image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's ...

Photo from NASA Mars orbiter shows wind's handiwork

Jan 26, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Some images of stark Martian landscapes provide visual appeal beyond their science value, including a recent scene of wind-sculpted features from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment ...

New views show old NASA Mars landers

Feb 09, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded a scene on Jan. 29, 2012, that includes the first color image from orbit showing ...

Thousands of New Images Show Mars in High Resolution

Sep 03, 2009

Thousands of newly released images from more than 1,500 telescopic observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show a wide range of gullies, dunes, craters, geological layering and other features on ...

Recommended for you

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

22 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

Apr 18, 2014

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
not rated yet Apr 05, 2012
What was the soil temp? The atmospheric temp profile?
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.

More news stories

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...