While performing its daily exploration routine on a Sunday on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover observed a small tornado of dust moving toward the horizon. The rover turned its camera and captured a video of the dust devil. Scientists studied this dust and concluded that it is about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) tall and 200 feet (60 meters) wide as it travels across the western rim of Jezero Crater.
On August 30, 2023, NASA released the video to celebrate Perseverance 899th Martian Day, or Sol, since it landed on Mars in February 2021. The video reveals how the rover used one of its navigation cameras to capture 21 frames, four seconds apart before speeding up the video by 20 times to reveal the movement of the dust devil.
How NASA’s Team Studied the Dust Devil
NASA’s Perseverance team used the obtained data to calculate the speed, distance, and size of the dust devil. From their analysis, they discovered that the dust devil was about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) away from the rover, traveling east to west at about 12 mph (19 kph) at a region nicknamed “Thorofare Ridge.” The team also measured its height by studying the shadow of the dust devil.
“We did not see the top of the dust, but the shadow it cast gave us a good indication of its height,” Mark Lemmon, a planetary scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and a member of the Perseverance science team said in a statement. “Most dust devils are vertical columns, and if this one was configured that way, its shadow would indicate it was about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) in height.”
What You Should Know About Martian dust devil
Dust devils are commonly found on Mars. The Martian thin atmosphere and temperature differences between the ground and the air often create suitable conditions for them to occur. However, Martian dust devils are much smaller and weaker than giant and strong Earth’s tornadoes.
But despite their weakness, they are still powerful enough to lift and carry dust around the red planet. Researchers are highly interested in studying them to fully understand the Martian weather and climate even better. Scientists have also discovered that dust devils do form on Earth when warm air rises and mixes with cooler air.
However, Martian dust devils are much larger than that of Earth. So far, astronomers have spotted the dust devils mostly during the spring and summer months in the Martian northern hemisphere where the Perseverance rover is currently residing. However, scientists cannot still predict where and when the dust devils will appear.
Hence NASA Perseverance and Curiosity Rovers are constantly looking in all directions in search of them. These rovers capture images in black and white to save data obtained from the Martian surface.
NASA’s Perseverance rover recently observed a small tornado of dust moving toward the horizon. The perseverance team studied the data obtained from this observation to measure the speed, distance, and size of the dust devil. The outcome of the study will help scientists to better understand how Martian dust storms occur. Check out these best telescopes for astrophotography.