Thursday, October 21, 2021

Perseverance has already detected more than 300 dust demons and vortexes on Mars

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MEDA Instrument on Earth.Credit – NASA / JPL-Caltech Those sensors were all put to good use, collecting data on that many dust devils. However, this wasn’t the first time dust devils were seen on Mars – the Viking missions first noticed them back in the 1970s, and they have been visible even from space by orbiting satellites for years.  But never before have as many fine-tuned on the ground sensors been able to collect a myriad of data on the phenomena.

Other rovers have also experience dust devils, but Jezero crater, Perseverance’s landing site, seems to have a high occurrence of dust devils.  Meteorological predictions suggested that might be the case, and observational evidence from Perseverance so far has confirmed those predictions. Learn More:Brian Jackson – Vortices and Dust Devils As Observed by the MEDA Instruments onboard Mars 2020 Perseverance – Perseverance rover spots its first dust devil on MarsUT – Summer is Dust Devil Time on MarsUT – This is a Dust Devil… on Mars

Martian dust is notorious for its difficult clinginess and toxicity and could prove a problematic hazard to deal with when crewed exploration missions start.  This confirmation of meteorological models with Perseverance’s data is a positive step toward genuinely understanding Maritan weather patterns. But it also might mean that Jezero Crater isn’t a particularly great place to go with the first human missions. Lead Image:A large dust devil on Mars.Credit – HiRISE, MRO, LPL, University of Arizona, NASA

What the predictions didn’t expect was the number of dust devils that didn’t involve any dust.  Only about 20% of the 309 vortices – nearly 5 per sol – detected dimmed the light around the rover by more than 2%.  An “insolation” (i.e., light detection) sensor was used to estimate how much dust was in the air during the events. Even with relatively limited dust uptake, scientists believe that dust devils are one of the most significant contributing factors to the amount of dust floating around Mars’ atmosphere. UT video discussing the hazards of Martian dust.

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