When the Wind Blows

Satellite view of huge dust devil on Mars

A huge 800-plus-foot-wide dust devil swirls across the parched plains of Mars in this image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera. Heading westward when the image was taken, it casts a tall diffuse shadow toward the northeast.

Area to scale

This photo is part of a study of the knobby surface texture of the region in the northern part of the planet. Since warm surface temperatures are needed to create dust devils – rotating updrafts of air rising quickly from heated ground – the discovery of such a large one this early in the season was a surprise to researchers. At these latitudes the devils usually form only in late summer.

Read the release on the University of Arizona’s HiRISE site here….and check out images of dust devils from a rover’s perspective here.

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona