A Pack of Eight Dust Devils Dance the Tornado Dance on the Surface of Mars

Here on Earth tornadoes are some of the most destructive manifestations of nature. Born when the conditions are just right for rotation in the updraft to be achieved, they've been known to devastate communities and take lives.
Eight dust devils on the surface of Mars 11 photos
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona
Eight dust devils on the surface of MarsEight dust devils on the surface of MarsGanges ChasmaGanges ChasmaGanges ChasmaGanges ChasmaEight dust devils on the surface of MarsEight dust devils on the surface of MarsEight dust devils on the surface of MarsEight dust devils on the surface of Mars
Over on Mars, the lack of an actual weather system prevents such things from occurring, but the place does have its share of similar manifestations, in the form of miniature tornadoes we like to call dust devils.

The process of them being born is roughly the same as in the case of tornadoes, only they're always much smaller and less devastating. They form here on Earth too, only you'll have to be incredibly lucky to spot one. On Mars, however, they come out in packs, dancing the tornado dance under the distant sun.

We've seen dust devils from Mars before, as they've been spotted repeatedly by the hardware down on the surface, including the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers. But those were out and about in solo mode, whereas here we have no less than eight huge ones doing the rounds at the same time.

What's interesting about this pic is that it was not snapped from ground level, but from an altitude of 267 km (166 miles). The orbiting HiRISE camera is responsible for the pic, and the place where this dance occurred is an area known as Ganges Chasma.

According to the people over at NASA and the University of Arizona who run the HiRISE, two of the devils (the ones in the upper side of the photo) are just 250 meters (820 feet) apart, and one of them is quite huge, measuring 100 meters (328 feet) in diameter.

The four dust devils included in the color strip are smaller, and spaced farther apart, at about 900 meters (2,952 feet) from one another. It is unclear how large these ones were.

HiRISE captured the image back in 2015, but it was only made public in September last year. It's used by scientists to get a better understanding of the behavior of dust devils up there.

There's still a lot of work to be done on the pic, but the people working on it say that these dust devils "might display some interesting social dynamics, possibly marching together and rotating in alternating directions."

As for Ganges Chasma, the place where the dust devils were spotted, we're talking about an area that's part of Valles Marineris canyon, one of the largest such formations we know of in this solar system, stretching for 4,000 km (2,500 mi) long and reaching in places depths of as much as seven km (23,000 ft).

To date, no human mission has been sent to this canyon, nor to the eastern part of it where the Ganges Chasma sits.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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