Taller than a HiRISE
March 7, 2012 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Just a photo of a half-mile tall Martian dust devil, snapped by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's strange, I'd love to be standing on the surface and feeling the alien breeze, but would it be that different from an Earthly breeze?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:39 PM on March 7, 2012


It always amazes me that the winds on Mars can be so complex, in as much as the atmospheric pressure there is about 0.5% of ours.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:45 PM on March 7, 2012


Yeah, plus it's farther out from the Sun which means less energy is being pumped into its atmosphere. You'd think that'd mean less wind, but apparently not. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the reason for this is that Mars has little thermal inertia (no oceans to absorb heat during the day and radiate it at night, I guess?) so you get really dramatic temperature swings.

If anybody is reading who knows a thing or two about Martian weather and why it can be so violent and dramatic, it's definitely always something I've wondered about as well.
posted by Scientist at 2:00 PM on March 7, 2012


And Brandon, I seem to recall Kim Stanley Robinson describing the Martian wind in his Mars Trilogy (which always struck me as being particularly well-grounded in science, albeit obviously mostly speculative) as seeming gentler than it would on Earth for a given wind speed, due to the thinner atmosphere, but that the higher overall speed would more than make up for it. Always seems plausible to me, though I can't really say if that's really accurate.

The Martian atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, which has a similar density to our air here so I don't think that would feel too different unless of course you decided to try and breathe it, which would probably work out poorly to say the least. Also apparently it's quite dusty, and it's quite a bit colder there than on Earth, though occasionally it can apparently be pretty balmy!

Gotta say, this Wikipedia article on the climate of Mars is full of interesting bits of information for the aspiring exoclimatologist.
posted by Scientist at 2:09 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, I just played through Waking Mars and this is SO COOL, I want to throw seeds at it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:20 PM on March 7, 2012


Only YOU can prevent forest fires...
posted by atomicmedia at 2:25 PM on March 7, 2012


Tornado?

Well, that means I'm not moving to West Liberty, Kentucky, OR Mars.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:35 PM on March 7, 2012


Mars does have a low crime rate, so there's that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:44 PM on March 7, 2012


Taz really gets around.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:51 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


My elementary school had dust devils on its dirt and gravel playground.

I used to chase them on my bike, but I couldn't catch one.

But one day after school when I was in third grade, I guessed right about the path a big one might take and was enveloped by it.

I was totally gravel-blasted, to the point I had to get new glasses a month early because of pitting in one lens, and I got slammed in the side of the head by a heavy, half-decayed wet newspaper. But the worst, most surprising thing was the awful smell. It still ranks as the worst thing I have ever smelled, and my nose has not led a sheltered life.

I was also totally suffused with wet dirt, outside and inside my clothes, down to the roots of my hair, and even deep into my ears.

The only time my mother was more horrified was when I came home after spending an afternoon riding my bike off a dinky clifflet into a slope of soft dirt that turned out to be a small outcropping of oil shale.
posted by jamjam at 3:58 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I lived in a desert-like climate as a teenager and dust devils this big were not common, but not all that rare either. There's something eerie about a dust-devil moving all by itself on the Martian landscape though...thanks for this.
posted by telstar at 8:40 PM on March 7, 2012


My first year at Burning Man I spent an afternoon chasing down dust devils on my bike. There was such a wild energy in them, the air moving so quickly but at the same time with a ponderous momentum and always shifting randomly around me that made it nearly impossible to keep up with it and find the still, quiet eye at its center where I could look up and see the blue sky above me. It was quite exhilarating. Seeing this image on another planet gives me a very odd feeling of connecting with it, almost a bi-locality, a feeling of being in a place I could never actually visit. Spooky. Delightful. Strange. Thanks...I think.
posted by scalefree at 9:11 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Just" a photo. LOL! From orbit around another planet, nothing special. It's not, after all, like someone had to walk there to get the shot!
posted by Goofyy at 7:03 AM on March 8, 2012


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