It’s been blustery lately in the Gale Crater on Mars, home to NASA’s Curiosity rover. The Curiosity team has been snapping landscape views to keep an eye on the wind activity. Their efforts paid off with a scenic GIF of a dust devil acting up in the distance.
Spotting dust devils on Mars can be tricky, requiring a lot of image processing.
“But this dust devil was so impressive that — if you look closely! — you can just see it moving to the right, at the border between the darker and lighter slopes, even in the raw images,” wrote atmospheric scientists Claire Newman, a Curiosity team member with Aeolis Research, in an update last week.
Curiosity takes “dust devil movies” where it observes a section of the crater, taking multiple images over a period of time. The researchers are looking at the formation, size, direction and duration of the whirlwinds. The dust devil in the GIF performed its dance earlier in August.
Curiosity is doing its part to give scientists a more complete picture of the wind and dust that can scour the red planet. “The dust measurements will help us to track the regional dust activity on Mars that has been seen from the surface and orbit in recent sols,” said Newman. A “sol” is a day on Mars.
Mars is known for impressive dust storms, including the global storm in 2018 that. Unlike Opportunity, Curiosity doesn’t rely on solar panels to stay alive. A bit of dust and wind won’t phase it, and we can safely enjoy the views back here on Earth.