One of the most fascinating aspects of Mars is its weather, which we’re now in a great position to observe thanks to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRise camera. Back on February 16, the orbiter captured a remarkable image of dust devil spinning over the red surface of the planet. Now, scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have handily reconstructed the twister on their computers here on Earth, giving us a closer look at this remarkably phenomenon.
The twister was spotted during spring on the northern region of Mars. Fortunately, dust devils occur on our own planet as well, so we have some idea as to how they work. During this time of the Martian year, the ground in this area gets hot, which warms the air close to the ground. As this rises, it sometimes hits a pocket of cooler air just above it, which can start the air rotating.
Looking at the shadow cast by the dust devil, scientists believe this one to be about 100 feet across and about a half mile tall. As dust devils go, this is a pretty big one, but no bigger than large dust devils seen on Earth.
While a dust devil is just a dust devil, it’s marvelous that our species not only has the tools to measure the weather on other planets, but can show us such startling images of those planets as well.