HiRISE Catches a Dust Devil on Mars

Jul 20, 2007
Dust Devil on Mars
Dust Devil East of Hellas Planitia (IMAGE CREDIT: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

The University of Arizona-based High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) group this week released a good look at a dust devil on Mars. This is not the storm bedeviling NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

The HiRISE camera captured the dust twister by chance in its photographic swath of a region in the southern hemisphere near Hellas Planitia during a Martian mid-afternoon early last month. The HiRISE camera is orbiting the Red Planet on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The HiRISE image is of a region east of the Hellas impact basin and south of Reull Vallis. Details on this and other new images are posted on the HiRISE website, hirise.lpl.arizona.edu .

Dust devils form when the temperature of the atmosphere near the ground is much warmer than that above. The hot air rises, and under ideal conditions, forms a vortex that sucks in more warm air. If the vortex is strong enough, it will raise dust off the surface, forming a dust devil.

Dust devils generally form in the afternoon because the sunlight needs sufficient time to warm the surface. Local time when this picture was taken was 3:08 p..m.

The bright material is the dust within the vortex. A dark shadow cast by the dust devil is visible to the right. This dust devil is about 200 meters across (about 660 feet), but probably much smaller than that where it touches the surface. Scientists estimate from the length of its shadow that the dust devil is about 500 meters tall (about 1,600 feet).

The HiRISE camera takes images of 3.5-mile-wide (6 km) swaths as the orbiter flies at about 7,800 mph between 155 and 196 miles (250 to 316 km) above Mars' surface.

Professor Alfred McEwen of UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is principal investigator for HiRISE.

Source: University of Arizona

Explore further: Video gives astronaut's-eye view inside NASA's Orion spacecraft

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Are dust devils whirling around the Curiosity rover?

Nov 19, 2012

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 ...

12-mile-high Martian dust devil caught in act

Apr 05, 2012

(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 ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Dec 19, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.