On August 30, 2023, NASA’s Perseverance rover captured the image of a Martian dust devil moving along the western edge of the Jezero Crater on Mars. This particular dust devil was spotted by Perseverance’s Navcams and recorded in a video composed of 21 frames taken with a four-second interval.
Dust devils are common on Mars and play a crucial role in mobilizing and redistributing dust throughout the planet. Scientists study these phenomena to enhance their understanding of the Martian atmosphere and improve weather models. Dust devils on Mars are weaker and smaller than those on Earth but can grow larger than their Earth counterparts.
Based on the images captured by Perseverance, scientists determined that the observed dust devil was approximately 2.5 miles away from the rover’s location at a place called “Thorofare Ridge.” It was estimated to be moving at a speed of around 12 mph and had a width of approximately 200 feet. Although only the bottom part of the dust devil was visible in the camera frame, scientists were able to estimate its total height by analyzing the shadow it cast. The estimated height of the dust devil was around 1.2 miles.
Both Perseverance and its companion rover Curiosity monitor their surroundings for dust devils by regularly taking black-and-white images in all directions. These images help scientists track the occurrence and behavior of dust devils on Mars.
Perseverance’s primary objective is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life on Mars. The mission also aims to characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration, and collect and store Martian rocks and regolith for future sample return missions.
In collaboration with the European Space Agency and future missions, the samples collected by Perseverance will be retrieved from Mars and sent back to Earth for detailed analysis. This Mars 2020 mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration initiative, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon as a stepping stone for human exploration of Mars.
– NASA/JPL-Caltech: [press kit](https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press_kits/mars_sample_return_press_kit.pdf)
– NASA: [press release](https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-perseverance-rover-captures-video-audio-of-fourth-of-july-fireworks-on-mars)
– Rover: a spacecraft designed to explore the surface of a celestial body.
– Dust Devil: a rotating column of air that picks up dust and transports it through the atmosphere.
– Jezero Crater: a crater on Mars believed to have once been a lake and now being studied by the Perseverance mission.
– Astrobiology: the study of life in the universe, including the search for signs of life on other planets.
– Regolith: a layer of dust, soil, and rocky fragments that covers the surface of a celestial body.