Are dust devils whirling around the Curiosity rover?

Nov 19, 2012 by Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
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

In this latest update from the MSL team, Ashwin Vasavada, the Deputy Project Scientist, explains how Curiosity has been monitoring the winds and radiation levels in Gale Crater. Curiosity has also been looking for dust devils—the small dust storms that have been seen by other spacecraft as they whirl around Mars. While Curiosity hasn't been able to 'see' them by taking images directly, other instruments indicate dust devils may be whirling right over the rover.

The team said that during the first 12 weeks after Curiosity landed in Gale Crater, they have analyzed data from more than 20 atmospheric events with at least one characteristic of a whirlwind recorded by the Rover Station (REMS) instrument. Those characteristics can include a brief dip in air pressure, a change in wind direction, a change in wind speed, a rise in air temperature or a dip in ultraviolet light reaching the rover. Two of the events included all five characteristics.

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Vasavada said that the winds blow from all directions where the rover sits, in between the central mound of Gale Crater (Aeolis Mons/Mt. Sharp) and the rim of the crater, which makes it an area ripe for dust devils.

Vasavada also points out that the rovers were able to capture in their own vicinity, which was an exciting accomplishment. Curiosity's MastCams can take 720p (1280×720 pixels) high-definition video at a rate of about 10 frames per second, so if the team was ever lucky enough to capture a dust devil in action, it would be our best-ever view of a dust devil on the surface of Mars, and would be tremendously exciting.

Here's a huge dust devil captured from orbit by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:

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User comments : 8

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cantdrive85
1.6 / 5 (13) Nov 19, 2012
Here are a couple of articles that discuss the electrical nature of Mars' dust devils.

http://www.thunde...vils.htm
http://www.thunde...evil.htm
GSwift7
3.3 / 5 (12) Nov 19, 2012
Yeah, that's great.

So, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars were all close to Earth in ancient times, like around the greek and roman empires, and they moved out to their present locations since then? Yeah, right. Ancient observations of their motions, even lined up with ancient stone structures, say that isn't true. We have records of observations of the solar system from those times. The Copernican model of the solar system was an attempt to explain the apparent motion, exactly as they are now. The wrote down records of observed retrograde apparent motions, postions, times of observation, etc. From those records, we can unambiguously say that the plants were in the same place then as they are now. Velikovski and Talbot are LUNES! Peratt is not much better, attempting to re-interpret ancient artwork as records of EU events. It's Bigfoot/Loch Ness type stuff dude. Give it up.
cantdrive85
1.4 / 5 (9) Nov 19, 2012
When Einstein died, 'Worlds in Collision' was open on his desk, and he was involved in extensive conversations with his contemporary Velikovsky. I guess that makes Einstein a loon (not lunar) as well. As far as Peratt, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck.... And I'm not sure what your straw man argument has to do with electric dust devils.

"At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes—an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense."
— Carl Sagan

Your skepticism is only offered for that which you don't adhere to, that's not scientific.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
3.7 / 5 (6) Nov 19, 2012
@ cantdrive: Dust devils are pressure flows, as on Earth. When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.

As for skepticism, organized versions adhere to science, not EU/PC antiscience. Because _they_ are interested in science, not religions.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (8) Nov 19, 2012
Tor, you dogma is short changing you once again.

http://www.nasa.g...vil.html

More here;
http://aoss-resea...rth.html

They discuss the electric nature of the DD's being from "particles rubbing together to incite a charge, like rubbing your feet across the carpet", however they fail to explain the electric field generated by the "invisible dust devils" or the invisible portion of the DD that reaches high into the atmosphere. A simple explanation for this and other anomalies suggests the phenomenon is PRIMARILY electrical, and the winds induced are carried by the electrical charges.
This is most likely a weak example of a charged sheath vortex, similar to tornadoes and waterspouts.
http://www.peter-...ado.html
This is another example of phenomenon that is observed on many bodies in our solar system from the Sun to Earth to Mars
Egleton
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 20, 2012
I know that it is a silly whim of mine, but would it have been too much to ask for a mic on the machine so that we could listen as well as look?
GSwift7
1 / 5 (2) Nov 21, 2012
I know that it is a silly whim of mine, but would it have been too much to ask for a mic on the machine so that we could listen as well as look?


They decided not to include one this time. There was a microphone on the Phoenix lander, but they didn't hear anything but white noise. With power, weight and most importantly bandwidth being a major concerne, a microphone just didn't make the cut. There were many proposed instruments that would have been cool to include on the rover, but only a few had to be selected from all the possible choices. It's all about getting the most bang for the buck.
yyz
1 / 5 (1) Nov 21, 2012
"....would it have been too much to ask for a mic on the machine so that we could listen as well as look?"

The Planetary Society is working to get a microphone included on the Mars InSight lander: http://www.planet...016.html

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