Summer time is Mud Satan Time on Mars

Summer is Dust Devil Time on Mars

Just like Earth, Mars is subject to seasonal changes due to its axial tilt. And while the summer heat on Mars cannot be compared to that on Earth, along with the Mars summer heat there is an increase in small swirling storms known as dust devils.

This image sequence shows a dust-carrying whirlwind, known as the dust devil, shooting across the ground in Gale Crater, as it did on the local summer afternoon of 1.597. Mars Day or Sols of the NASA Curiosity Mars Rover (February 1, 2017) was observed. The rectangular, black bordered area was viewed from the rover's navigation camera in a broader view to the south and imaged several times over a period of several minutes in order to search for dust devils. Pictures from the time with the most activities are displayed in the inserted area. The images are in pairs about 12 seconds apart with about 90 seconds between the pairs. The timing is sped up in this animation. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech / TAMU

Several spaceships on or around Mars have caught dust devils in action, including the 2008 Phoenix lander and the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers.

From above, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has discovered gigantic dust devils that “suck” on the surface of Mars, and at the same time saw the “traces” of past dust devils that appear as dark markings on the regolith of Mars.

Intricate patterns of dark stripes trace the paths of the dust devils in the northern plains of Mars. Many of these routes are more than 30 meters wide and stretch for more than 4 kilometers. This picture is from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, HiRISE camera. Photo credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona.

Scientists say dust devils form when sunlight warms the air near a dry surface. Warm air then rises quickly through the cooler air above and begins to spin, causing forward motion. These spinning air columns are visible through the dust they pull off the ground. The rotating, moving forward cell picks up dust and sand as it advances and leaves a “clean” trail.

This image shows part of the eastern edge of the ejection of a very large impact crater that looks pretty well defined next to dust devil tracks, winding ridges in the south, and relatively fresh, smaller craters in the north. Photo credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona.

In this picture above, for example, the thin top layer of reddish, light dust particles and / or fine-grain sand, with the darker and heavier sand remaining underneath. This is shown in pictures when the dust devil chases.

From previous experience, researchers have found that on any Mars spring or summer day, dust devils can appear around 10 a.m. (local time) when the ground warms up and subside around 3 p.m. when the ground cools down. The dust devils usually only last a few minutes.

A towering dust devil casts a serpentine shadow over the surface of Mars in this image, which was captured with the HiRISE camera (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Photo credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. from Arizona

Dust devils can be up to 20 kilometers high on Mars, as shown in the picture above, which HiRISE took in 2012 in action. Unexpected cleanings of solar panels on Mars Exploration Rovers have been attributed to dust devils.

My favorite picture of the Martian dust devil trail is this one with markings similar to the symbol used by Prince:

This portion of a recent high-resolution image from the HiRISE camera shows winding dark trails crossing through bright terrain on the surface of Mars. Photo credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona.

Here you can see a collection of high-resolution images of dust devils from the HiRISE camera on board MRO.

Link to leading image information on the HiRISE website.

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