(ORDO NEWS) — Large amounts of dust, which gives the Red Planet’s characteristic rusty tint, rise into the atmosphere mainly due to dust whirlwinds, but sometimes powerful gusts of wind also come into play, scientists on the NASA Perseverance rover science team found .
“The wind-blown dust lift that the Perseverance rover detected in Jezero Crater is the first ever recorded event of its kind,” said Claire Newman, lead author of the new study and one of the four planetary scientists who founded the research a firm called Aeolis Research.
Mars is covered in fine rust-colored dust, and during regional and global dust storms, large amounts of this dust can rise into the Martian atmosphere, where the dust predominantly scatters light wavelengths close to the red end of the spectrum, which determines the color of the Martian sky.
But while dust storms are seasonal, dust concentrations in the Martian atmosphere continue to be quite high throughout the year, indicating additional, more stable sources of dust.
For the first time, the Perseverance rover has observed dust being blown into the atmosphere by whirlwinds and less commonly seen strong gusts of wind. The rover’s on-board MEDA (Mars Environment Dynamics Analyzer) instrumentation detected, on average, the passage of one atmospheric vortex per day.
Less frequent than dust whirlwinds, but capable of raising more dust, are powerful daytime gusts of wind. The largest eddies detected by the MEDA instrument in the vicinity of the landing site of the Perseverance rover inside the Jezero crater are about 270 meters across, while one particular gust of wind recorded during the daytime covered about 10 times the area, the authors noted.
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