Curiosity captures a dust devil

During its recent and last several-week-long drilling effort in the clay unit in Gale Crater, the rover Curiosity was also able to luckily capture the passing of a nearby dust devil.

It’s almost summer in Gale crater, which puts us in a period of strong surface heating that lasts from early spring through mid-summer. Stronger surface heating tends to produce stronger convection and convective vortices, which consist of fast winds whipping around low pressure cores. If those vortices are strong enough, they can raise dust from the surface and become visible as “dust devils” that we can image with our cameras. The animated GIF shows a dust devil movie we took with Navcam on Sol 2847, covering a period of about five minutes. We often have to process these images, by enhancing what’s changed between them, before dust devils clearly show up. But this dust devil was so impressive that – if you look closely! – you can just see it moving to the right, at the border between the darker and lighter slopes, even in the raw images.

I have embedded the movie below the fold. The dust devil looks like a ghostly white tower moving from the left to the right just above the darkest band of landscape cutting across the middle of the image.
» Read more