Friday, September 12, 2008

More Martian Dust Devils

The Mars Phoenix Lander has finally spotted some dust devils!
The camera shot these four frames, 50 seconds between each frame, so you are seeing the movement over about two and a half minutes. It's about a kilometer away from the lander and meters in diameter. You may even notice some changes in the shadows in the different frames due to some clouds passing by. Another neat measurement is that they managed to record air pressure changes as they dust devils passed.

Dust devils have been seen before by other landers on Mars and were expected to be seen here based on evidence in images from orbiters. Remember that all other landers on Mars have landed near the equator...Phoenix landed up north of the arctic circle, so this is a different part of the planet.

Unfortunately, since it is so far north and the northern hemisphere of Mars is heading into winter, the nights are getting longer and colder. Soon the solar panels won't be able to recharge the batteries and Phoenix will go silent. We knew this would happen of course, and it already has exceeded its 90 day primary mission and met its major science objectives (and thrown a couple of new mysteries our way to boot).


SER said...

Okay HB...I know what dust bunnies are, but what are dust devils?

I suppose I could read up on them, but I would rather you explain them.

RWWackoStu said...

Very Cool!

hale-bopp said...

Dust devils are swirling columns of rising hot air. The can appear similar to a small tornado, but rarely get strong enough to do any damage.

They are common here in the Tucson area. I was at a U of Arizona track meet last spring and one came right through the stadium. Delayed the start of a relay (I believe the 4x100) a few minutes.

OrbsCorbs said...


SER said...

Thanks HB. When I worked on the farm I use to see little tornados and we use to try to run and stand inside them. They never lasted long. I believe the biggest one I ever saw was maybe 5 feet wide and 25 foot high. But you sure could get an eye for of dirt trying to get in them!