Dust Devils in Gusev Crater, Mars

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Gusev Crater is decorated by tracks made by dust devils that have been observed by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC), and HiRISE images. Dust devils are of interest because they may clean the solar panels that provide power to Spirit, and are partially responsible for dust transportation on the surface of Mars.

As the dust devil picks up material from the bright dust-mantled surface, it exposes the darker basaltic substrate. These scribble marks will follow the prevailing winds and tend to cluster together as the lower albedo surface heats up more quickly. Scientists are trying to understand the relationship between dust devils and craters and other topographic features that generate multiple wind directions.

Comments

  1. #1 Gary Bohn
    September 15, 2008

    Ah, the complexities of differential heating and its effects on local/general conditions. Too bad not everyone can understand its consequences. (I’m referring to anti-AGW types)

    At one time, when I was much, much younger and watching man landing on the moon, I wanted to be the first man to land on Mars. Sadly, now I simply want to live long enough to observe the first humans on Mars.

  2. #2 eddie
    September 16, 2008

    I first saw footage of martian dust devils on John Baez’s blog; this weeks finds. At the time I was also reading Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen’s What Does a Martian Look Like?
    I put two and two together and went all the way up to eleven.

    They could conceivably be sentient nano swarms but how would they have evolved and how would they reproduce.

  3. #3 eddie
    September 16, 2008

    I first saw footage of martian dust devils on John Baez’s blog; this weeks finds. At the time I was also reading Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen’s What Does a Martian Look Like?
    I put two and two together and went all the way up to eleven.

    They could conceivably be sentient nano swarms but how would they have evolved and how would they reproduce.

  4. #4 john alexander
    August 19, 2010

    Well I’ve been fascinated in the more extreme concepts of Dust Devils since I saw an amazing color image now in Wikipedia.

    * I had long wondered why there were so many long runs of stones in images from the martian surface.

    * The image looked like a “particle” collision image with some resulting “particles” going off into spirals and some in straight lines

    * The dust devil is an example of some process operating from a surface to a volume, and apparently our universe might work the same way.

    * Dust devils have two possible directions of rotation analogously to some atomic / sub-atomic particles.

    * The prior path of the the dust devil is going to be warmer than ambient due to exposure of darker under-surface material of scatter of darker inner dust from dust devil munching of colliding captured stones. (As the dd spins and sucks up material that is ground by collisions in the whirlwind)

    * The above is somewhat analogous to reproduction, by leaving a track where future dust devils are more likely to form, and possibly leaving some “genetic material” (some expression of its history which may be of survival value to its progeny) from material retained in the whirlwind. If some material could be retained for longish periods, then material from several previous pathways could be retained if it were useful. Probably only some resonant or very restricted particle size or mass(etc) could be retained within the whirlwind for a significant time, it might involve soliton effects, etc.

    * There are many images from Mars that include beauty and repetition with variance. For example the Wikipedia colored dust devil image showed many very regular-looking sand-dunes. Such regular waveforms at least sometimes result from positive feedback.

    * If the dust devils eject spun-up material that is fragmented during internal collisions between rotation streamlines, then it seems likely that ground and fresh stones of different mass/volume/density/roughness(etc) are ejected to different relative distances and/or in different patterns, although it seems to me that these will probably vary by energy and size of the dust devil, etc. (energy and size may be proportional though – i.e same dimension)

    * The interaction between the dust devils, the martian surface and the environment (and rate of change of the environment, etc) could be regarded as a form of very complex positive feedback system between the many interacting factors, with the dust devils being the primary and focal active elements, also with elements of pattern persistence and collective modification over time.

    * Perturbation patterns in the environment could influence the activity of dust devils and in at least some cases positive feedback is thought to occur. It seems likely that any system with semi-independent multi-factorial feed-backs will contain at least a few positive feedback examples. Otherwise surely it would quickly devolve into extremely boring stability.

    * A positive feedback system is a pre-condition for life to form (John’s assumption :)

    * It is likely that dust devils themselves sometimes interact and would also sometime collect or even swap ejecta.

    * Dust devils likely follow the paths of other dust devils, but a bit offset to collect the best range of ejecta, which may be relevant to the stability of the dust devil.

    * In at least two of the martian dust devil videos (GIF files included) there were momentary occurrences of other dust devils in the background. Is there any way this could relate to action at a distance or Cooper pairing?

    * There were two extraordinary example of weirdness in the martian dust devil images, (although so many of the overall set of martian images contain weird features

    * The presumably spiral form of dust devils is analogous to the double helix of DNA. Yes ok this is very weak :)

    * It would seem that dust devils can remain stable for a longish period, and one would imagine the statistical longevity profile (membrane) of martian dust devils would surely be one of the critical research factors

    * If enough of the wild speculations above yielded fruit then Mars might turn out to be different Gaia than we didn’t expect :)

    * I’m not even going to talk about the oh-so weird barcode structure running roughly diagonally across the Wikipedia colored Mars dust devil image. Is that barcode DNA type stuff or what? Can some government official please comment or is this image a total fake? Come on NASA, give us the answers

    All the best for a good weekend, love John :)

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