HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

NASA Has Spotted a Giant Dust Tornado on Mars

No big deal, just 20 km of hot dust, tornado-ing its way across an alien planet.

FIONA MACDONALD
4 MAR 2015
 

This incredible image, which happened to be NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day earlier this week, shows a huge dust devil raging across Mars’s flat, dry Amazonis Planitia.

Captured in 2012 by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the dust plume reached around 20 km into the thin Martian atmosphere, and the funnel itself was roughly 140 metres in diameter.

 

These dust devils are common in this region of Mars in spring and summer, when the Sun heats up the surface, and warm, rising air currents being to rotate.

According to other images captured by the MRO’s onboard HiRISE camera, it’s estimated that wind speeds for these little sand tornadoes can reach 110 km/hour. You can even see some footage of other Martian dust devils here. 

While they look impressive, we’re glad we’re not experiencing them up close.

Source: Astronomy Photo of the Day

Read this next: Curiosity drill site reveals Mars isn’t red - it’s greyish-blue

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