Scientists recreate massive Mars dust devil using computer simulation

Mike Wehner, Tecca

Last month, NASA's new Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured a stunning image of a dust devil swirling about on the planet's rocky surface. The weather of the red planet has always often been a mystery to researchers, and the sharp photo captivated scientists the world over. Now, the team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has used some high-tech modeling software to recreate the twister and give us a better glimpse at what it might have been like to see it in person.

The dust devil was created in much the same way they occur here at home: warm air on the ground rises into cooled air above, and as the two switch places, a spinning effect sometimes occurs. February is prime time for such activity on Mars as the sun beats down on the rocky landscape and produces a surplus of warmed air.

Using the angle of the sun and the length and width of the shadow being cast by the spinning funnel of dust, the researchers were able to confirm that the twister measured approximately 100' wide at its base, and stretched roughly a half mile into the sky. That's a rather large dust devil, and lands in the upper limits of similar phenomenon we have witnessed here on Earth.


This article originally appeared on Tecca

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