Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty
The Bruce Murray Space Image Library

Gusev dust devil, sol 459

Filed under pretty pictures, Spirit, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars, animation

Go Back

Gusev dust devil, sol 459 This movie clip shows a dust devil scooting across a plain inside Gusev Crater on Mars as seen from the NASA rover Spirit's hillside vantage point during sol 459 (April 18, 2005). The individual images were taken about 20 seconds apart by Spirit's navigation camera, and the contrast has been enhanced for anything in the images that changes from frame to frame, that is, for the dust devil.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Spirit began seeing dust devils in isolated images in March 2005. At first, the rover team relied on luck. It might catch a dust devil in an image or it might miss by a few minutes. Using the new detection strategy, the rover takes a series of 21 images. Spirit sends a few of them to Earth, as well as little thumbnail images of all of them. Team members use the 3 big images and all the small images to decide whether the additional big images have dust devils. For this movie, they specifically told Spirit to send back frames that they knew had dust devils.

The images were processed in three steps. All images were calibrated to remove known camera artifacts. The images were then processed to remove stationary objects. The result is a gray scene showing only features that change with time. The final step combined the original image with the image that shows only moving features, showing the martian scene and the enhanced dust devils.

Scientists expected dust devils since before Spirit landed. The landing area inside Gusev Crater is filled with dark streaks left behind when dust devils pick dust up from an area. It is also filled with bright "hollows", which are dust-filled miniature craters. Dust covers most of the terrain. Winds flow into and out of Gusev crater every day. The Sun heats the surface so that the surface is warm to the touch even though the atmosphere at 2 meters (6 feet) above the surface would be chilly. That temperature contrast causes convection. Mixing the dust, winds, and convection should trigger dust devils. 

Scientists will use the images to study several things. Tracking the dust devils tells which way the wind blows at different times of day. Statistics on the size of typical dust devils will help with estimates of how much dust they pump into the atmosphere every day. By watching individual dust devils change as they go over more-dusty and less-dusty terrain, researchers can learn about the turbulent motion near the surface. Ultimately, that motion of wind and dust near the surface relates these small dust devils with Mars' large dust storms.

Original image data dated on or about April 18, 2005.

Most NASA images are in the public domain. Reuse of this image is governed by NASA's image use policy.

 

Other Related Images

Comments:

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Join The Planetary Society

Let’s explore the cosmos together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!