NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Dust storms are a common occurrence on the extremely arid planet, Mars. However, very rarely do we get to see the actual process of dust being lifted off the martian surface to feed these dust storms. This Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image captures some of the dust-raising process in action. The picture shows a shallow trough with large, ripple-like dunes on its floor. Sunlight illuminates the scene from the upper left. Puffy, billowy clouds of dust obscure some of the surface from view. Closer inspection shows streamers of dust, streaking from left/upper left toward right/lower right, down near the surface of the planet. It is in these streamers that dust is being lifted from the ground. This image is located near 29.6°S, 73.1°W, and covers an area 3 km (1.9 mi) wide.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, California. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, California and Denver, Colorado.