It seems that on Mars you might wait for ages for a dust devil, and then three come along at once. Fortunately, there’s engineer Kevin M. Gill, who has the well-earned title of Martian photographer at NASA-JPL, who was able to spot them in images taken by NASA’s Perseverance.
And he didn’t just spot them, he processed the raw images, enhanced the contrast, and put them together in a little animation that shows those three little twisters shuffle dust across the Red Planet’s surface. The Navigational images are not the best when it comes to quality (their purpose is not detailed observations) but Gill was able to craft something mesmerizing. The images were collected on the 372nd day of Perseverence on Mars. Or March 7, 2022, for us.
Dust devils are columns of rising air moving across the ground and they are relatively common on Mars. The ground gets hotter than the air above so it rises and colder air comes down. This process creates vortices, which can pick up sand and become visible. Most of them are small and appear occasionally but when the conditions are right they can become both numerous and large.
The Martian atmosphere is 100 times thinner than Earth’s so these dust devils can’t do much damage but over time they help shift sand and carve the frigid desert environment that makes Mars what it is today.