Orbiter Captures Image Of Mars Dust Devil

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PASADENA, Calif. (UPI) — NASA has released an image taken by its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of a towering dust devil on Mars the agency says is more than a half mile high.

Captured by a high-resolution camera on the orbiter on Feb. 16, the image shows an afternoon whirlwind over the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars, the agency reported Thursday.

Dust devils occur on Earth as well as on Mars when the ground is heated by the sun, warming the air just above the ground.

As heated air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler air above it, the air may begin to rotate, if conditions are just right, scientists said.

The active Martian dust devil, about 30 yards in diameter, displays a delicate arc produced by a westerly breeze partway up its height and its shadow on the surface below, NASA said.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been examining Mars with six science instruments since 2006.

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