(ORDO NEWS) — NASA‘s Perseverance rover has taken detailed photographs and recorded sounds for the first time of the Martian “dust devil,” a small sandy vortex similar in size and properties to its terrestrial counterparts from the deserts of the New World.
“Our observations helped us measure how the pressure and sound environment change at the periphery in the center of this vortex.
It turned out that the wind inside it moves very quickly, about 40 km / h, which corresponds to the speed at which dust devils rotate on Earth,” said Roger Vince, a professor at Pardew University in West Lafayette (USA), quoted by the press service of the university.
As noted in the report, Vince and his colleagues got their first opportunity to study the Martian sand vortex from the closest possible distance in September 2021, when Perseverance accidentally got inside one of the “dust devils” wandering the surface of the Jezero crater, where the fifth NASA rover landed. in February last year.
At the time of the meeting with the sandy whirlwind, as scientists note, the rover’s cameras, its onboard microphone and the MEDA meteorological instrument were working, with which scientists study the climate and weather on Mars, as well as the behavior of dust in its atmosphere.
Scientists took advantage of this random event for a comprehensive study of the structure and properties of the Martian “dust devils”, for which they combined and compared the results of measurements of all these devices.
Calculations carried out by planetary scientists showed that the sand whirl had a diameter of about 25 m and a height of about 120 m, which is comparable to the dimensions of its counterparts on Earth.
Similarly, the wind speed inside the Martian “dust devil” turned out to be close to that of its terrestrial counterparts – about 40 km / h.
On the other hand, the strength of this dust whirl turned out to be hundreds of times less than that of the earth’s “dust devils”, which is due to the extremely low atmospheric pressure on Mars.
Despite this, a very large number of sand and dust particles were present inside it, whose concentration was comparable to how much matter is carried by terrestrial sand whirlwinds.
This suggests that “dust devils” play an important role in the circulation of dust between the surface and the atmosphere of Mars, the scientists noted.
The Search for Martian Life
The first plans for the Perseverance rover were announced by NASA in December 2012. The fifth NASA rover, which is a close analogue of its predecessor, the Curiosity rover, was launched into space at the end of July 2020, and in February 2021 it successfully landed on Mars.
After that, Perseverance successfully launched the first aircraft, the Ingenuity helicopter, into the atmosphere of Mars, and began exploring the planet, including searching for possible traces of life.
It is planned that Perseverance will not only study the properties of sedimentary rocks, but also collect their samples in a special cabinet installed on board.
The stored minerals will be returned to Earth by a special joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA called MSR, which will be sent to the red planet no earlier than 2026.
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