Orbiter shoots Martian dust devil in action!

Last Updated 22 June 2014, 10:11 IST

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter camera has detected images of dust devils in action in the atmosphere of Mars.

Dust devil, a whirlwind of dust that forms from sunlight heating the ground, is one of the Mars' most dramatic atmospheric features that can be spotted from orbit, the US space agency said in its statement.

Although dust devil tracks are numerous and have been recorded many times, it can be hard to catch these whirling dervishes in the act.

The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board the orbiter has detected the dust devils.

"Both Mars Orbiter camera and HiRISE images in this general region have a fairly high rate of capturing dust devils (sometimes several in one image)," the HiRISE science team stated.

"So acquiring images here in the right season has a good chance to help us obtain better measurements of these features," they added.

Study of the size and frequency of dust devils can help planetary scientists better understand the characteristics of the dynamic Mars atmosphere.

Dust devils on Mars form the same way they do in deserts on the Earth - strong heating of the surface by the sun, rising of heated, low-density air that swirls upwards in a column, some wind to move it along a path over the ground, and entrainment, or picking up, of surface particles such as dust.

Despite their name, dust devils are angels that come to the rescue of solar panelled robots operating on the Martian surface, Discovery News reported.

(Published 22 June 2014, 10:10 IST)

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