Headlines > News > Picture of the Day - Martian Dust Devil Trails

Picture of the Day - Martian Dust Devil Trails

Published by Matt on Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:07 pm via: source
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Who’s been marking up Mars? This portion of a recent high-resolution picture from the HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows twisting dark trails criss-crossing light colored terrain on the martian surface.

Newly formed trails like these had presented researchers with a tantalizing martian mystery but are now known to be the work of miniature wind vortices known to occur on the red planet – martian dust devils. Such spinning columns of rising air heated by the warm surface are also common in dry and desert areas on planet Earth. Typically lasting only a few minutes, dust devils becoming visible as they pick up loose red-colored dust leaving the darker and heavier sand beneath intact. On Mars, dust devils can be up to 8 kilometers high. Dust devils have been credited with unexpected cleanings of mars rover solar panels.

Martian Dust Devil Trails. Credit: NASA

Martian Dust Devil Trails. Credit: NASA

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