From up on a hill, #Mars rover Opportunity took the image of a Martian dust devil as it moved across a valley, swirling strongly. The rover took the picture using its navigation camera (Navcam) on March 31, 2016, during the Martian day; sol 4,332 of the rover´s research on Mars. 

Dust devil

This types of weather phenomena includes vertically oriented strong whirlwinds ranging from small (1/2 meters wide by 2-3 meters tall) and large (10 meters wide by 100-1000 meters tall) They are produced by a rising rotating column of warm air, raising dust from the ground and making it visible. They´re harmless; however, on occasions, they may pose a great danger.

Dust devils are known to occur on mars and they were first detected by Viking orbiters in the 70s. Mars path finder came across one in 1997. On March, 2005, a dust devil wiped the solar panels of Spirit rover, as a consequence, these devices ‘solar power greatly increased. Martian dust devils can outgrow those seen on earth by 10-15 times and the large ones may pose tremendous threat to the robotic instruments sent to Mars.

Opportunity

This rover was launches on July 7, 2003 and eight month later, landed on Meridian Plaum on January 25, 2004. This rover´s main scientific studies include the exploration of the Martian geology; searching for signs of liquid water in Mars ‘ancient past; analyze the minerals and textures of soil and rocks and evaluate whether these conditions were capable of supporting life on Mars.

Opportunity findings

It was found that water once flowed through rocks. Sulfates and the structures, such as niches of crystal growth show evidence that water once existed on the region under study by this rover. The discovery was made with the rover´s particle X-ray spectrometer, capable of identifying the chemical composition of a sample. Now, the rover will have to determine whether these rocks containing sulfur may have been laid down by minerals precipitating from a salty solution of a body of water, such as an ocean or lake.

Interesting data

During the climb up Knudsen Ridge, from where the image of the dust devil was taken, Opportunity reached a 32° tilt, which is the steepest ever attained by any rover on the surface of Mars. #Science #Spacecraft