London, The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured three dust devils thundering across the surface of Mars.
Additionally, if you happen to have a pair of red-green 3D glasses handy, you can even see them in 3D.
“Viewed with red-green glasses, the active dust devils seem to float above the surface,” the Daily Mail quoted Alfred McEwen says the University of Arizona’s
‘There are also some bright lines present in only the later image – those are the tracks of dust devils that passed through this region in the prior two weeks.’
Despite the atmosphere on Mars being desperately thin, one percent of Earth’s pressure, the planet’s winds are strong enough to produce dramatic dust devils.
The dust devils whirl at huge speeds and can be bigger than any tornadoes on Earth.
The trio captured this week were tiddlers compared to some of the “devils” seen this year – on March 14, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped a 12-mile-high monster.
The “devil” left a streak across the planet’s surface – it’s just 70 yards wide, but higher than Earth tornadoes, a column of dust whirling so fast it would sandblast anything in it.
“Because the density of Mars” atmosphere is so low, even a high velocity dust devil is unlikely to knock you over,’ says the University of Arizona team which posted the video.
“However, you might be blasted by any sand or dust particles carried along by the dust devil, which might scratch the visor of your space suit quickly if you were caught outside by this monster,” the team said.
The length of the shadow indicates that the dust plume reached a height of 12 miles above the surface.
Dozens of smaller dust devils were captured by the Mars Reconnaissance orbiter’s cameras, ‘vacuuming’ the surface around the monster ‘devil’.
Despite its gargantuan height, the plume is only 70 yards in diameter, giving it a snake-like appearance that is twisted by high altitude winds, similar to another dust devil spotted recently in this region.
Just as on Earth, winds on Mars are powered by solar heating. Exposure to the sun’s rays declines during this season, yet even now, dust devils act relentlessly to clean the surface of freshly deposited dust, a little at a time.
Dust devils occur on Earth as well as on Mars. They are spinning columns of air, made visible by the dust they pull off the ground. Unlike a tornado, a dust devil typically forms on a clear day when the ground is heated by the sun, warming the air just above the ground.
As heated air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler air above it, the air may begin to rotate, if conditions are just right.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been examining Mars with six science instruments since 2006 and has has returned more data about Mars than all other orbital and surface missions combined.
One of its cameras is so powerful they can reveal objects on Mars as small as an office desk.
It has taken over 20,000 photographs of the Red Planet so far.
The Orbiter makes a complete circuit of Mars every 112 minutes, flying a nearly circular orbit that ranges in height from about 255 kilometres (160 miles) over the South Pole to 320 kilometres (200 miles) over the North Pole.
For handling large amounts of data, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has 160 gigabits of solid-state memory and a processor operating at up to 46 million instructions per second.