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NASA’s Persistence Rover Studies Intense Dust Storms on the Red Planet

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US space agency NASA’s Perseverance rover has been exploring Mars and searching for signs of life since it landed on Mars in February last year. In addition to rocks and exotic environments, the rover observed some intense dusty winds, called dust devils, in Jezero Crater. In a new study, scientists try to investigate weather events the rover has observed in its first 216 Martian days. The findings are said to be beneficial for scientists in knowing the dust processes on Mars and in predicting future dust storms on the Red Planet.

NASA’s Perseverance managed to film an event where gusts of wind lifted a giant Martian dust cloud. It has also detected hundreds of dusty winds using a suite of cameras and sensors on it.

“We had a regional dust storm over us in January, but we’re still in the middle of dust season, so we’re likely to see more dust storms,” ​​said Claire Newman, a researcher at Aeolis Research and Lead. The authors of the study published in Science Advances.

It was noted in the study that Perseverance experienced at least four tornadoes on a typical day on Mars. The researchers observed that more than one such wind passes through the rover during its peak period just after noon.

The rover’s cameras also captured three gust events where wind gusts created large dust clouds of up to 4 square kilometres. These wind gusts had the ability to collectively lift the same amount or more dust than a tornado.

“We think these gust-liftings are rare, but may account for a large portion of the background dust that hovers in the Martian atmosphere at all times,” Newman said.

Mars is known for its dust storms and winds and dust have been observed across the planet. However, the researchers observed more dust storm activity in Jezero Crater. This, according to Newman, may be due to factors such as the roughness of its surface which facilitates the dust lifting by the wind.

“Generally there is more dust lifting in Jezero Crater, although average wind speeds are lower and peak wind speeds and tornado activity are comparable to those of Elysium Planitia,” Newman explained.


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