The team behind NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover have uploaded a fascinating GIF of the dust devil rolled onto the surface of the Red Planet’s Gale Crater, a large meteorite impact site and suspected dry lake.
We are in the “windy weather” of the crater at the moment, according to a NASA blog post – and that means observing a plethora of sand swirls for the rover.
Curiosity has taken the opportunity to track these winds on how sand moves across the surface.
This windy season is a period of strong surface heat, the Martian summer morning. This means, “strong convection and convective vortices, with strong winds around the core of low pressure,” as Claire Newman, a member of the curiosity team and atmospheric scientist at Aolis Research, wrote in a blog post.
These vortices, once quite powerful, can develop into “dust devils”, which rotate on columns of wind and dust that can reach a height of five miles on Mars.
The Curiosity team tracked the dust devil by taking several images over a 30-minute period and stitching them together.
Newman wrote, “We often have to process these images, which turn between them, before the dust devils are clearly visible.” “But this dust devil was so impressive that – if you look closely! – you can only see it moving to the right, at the boundary between the darker and the lighter slope, even in the raw images.
By capturing these time intervals, researchers can brighten up valuable details about these influential weather patterns, such as how much dust gets swept away, how fast and in which direction they are moving.
Read more: NASA Curiosity rover roars impressive dust devil on Mars [CNET]
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