Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

Wind vs. Dust Devil Streaks

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-644, 22 February 2004

NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

This Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image presents a fine illustration of the difference between streaks made by dust devils and streaks made by wind gusts. Dust devils are usually solitary, spinning vortices. They resemble a tornado, or the swirling motion of a familiar, Tasmanian cartoon character. Wind gusts, on the other hand, can cover a larger area and affect more terrain at the same time. The dark, straight, and parallel features resembling scrape marks near the right/center of this image are thought to have been formed by a singular gust of wind, whereas the more haphazard dark streaks that crisscross the scene were formed by dozens of individual dust devils, acting at different times. This southern summer image is located in Noachis Terra near 67.0°S, 316.2°W. Sunlight illuminates the scene from the upper left; the picture covers an area 3 km (1.9 mi) wide.

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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.

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