Dust devils are generally used as a trope in media when the writers want to know that an area is deserted. They signify the desolation and isolation that those places represent. Almost none of the settings of those stories are close to the isolation of Perseverance, the Mars rover that landed on the planet earlier this year. Fittingly, the number of dust devils Perseverance has detected is also extremely high – over 300 in its first three months on the planet.
The paper discussing those findings, written by Brian Jackson of Boise State University, is available on arXiv. Data used in that analysis was collected by a suite of instruments on the rover known as the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA). That suite includes everything from humidity and wind sensors to ground temperature and dust optical sensors.
MEDA Instrument on Earth.Credit – NASA / JPL-Caltech
Those sensors were all put to good use, collecting data on that many dust devils. However, this wasn’t the first time dust devils were seen on Mars – the Viking missions first noticed them back in the 1970s, and they have been visible even from space by orbiting satellites for years. But never before ...