April 13, 2024

Martian Dust Devils: NASA’s Perseverance Studies the Wild Winds of Jezero Crater

The Mars rovers weather sensors experienced everyday whirlwinds and more while studying the Red Planet.
During its very first couple of hundred days in Jezero Crater, NASAs Perseverance Mars rover saw some of the most intense dust activity ever seen by a mission sent to the Red Planets surface. Not just did the rover discover hundreds of dust-bearing whirlwinds called dust devils, Perseverance caught the first video ever tape-recorded of wind gusts lifting an enormous Martian dust cloud.
A research paper just recently published in Science Advances chronicles the trove of weather phenomena observed in the first 216 Martian days, or sols. The new findings enable scientists to much better comprehend dust procedures on Mars and add to a body of knowledge that could one day assist them forecast the dust storms that Mars is well-known for– which present a danger to future robotic and human explorers.

This series of images from a navigation video camera aboard NASAs Perseverance rover reveals a gust of wind sweeping dust across the Martian plain beyond the rovers tracks on June 18, 2021 (the 117th sol, or Martian day, of the objective). The dust cloud in this GIF was approximated to be 1.5 square miles (4 square kilometers) in size; it was the first such Martian wind-lifted dust cloud of this scale ever captured in images. The paper approximated that these wind gusts may jointly lift as much or more dust as the whirlwinds that far outnumber them.
Jezeros dust lifting has been more extreme than the team would have wanted: Sand carried in whirlwinds damaged MEDAs two wind sensing units. Sand grains blown in the wind, and likely carried in whirlwinds, likewise harmed one of the Curiosity rovers wind sensors (Curiositys other wind sensing unit was damaged by particles churned up throughout its landing in Gale Crater).

” Jezero Crater may remain in among the most active sources of dust in the world.”– Manuel de la Torre Juarez
” Every time we land in a new location on Mars, its a chance to better understand the worlds weather condition,” stated the papers lead author, Claire Newman of Aeolis Research, a research business concentrated on planetary atmospheres. She added there might be more exciting weather condition en route: “We had a regional dust storm right on top people in January, however were still in the middle of dust season, so were likely to see more dust storms.”
NASAs Perseverance Mars rover used its navigation electronic camera to catch these dust devils swirling throughout Jezero Crater on July 20, 2021, the 148th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
Perseverance made these observations mostly with the rovers cameras and a suite of sensors belonging to the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), a science instrument led by Spains Centro de Astrobiología in collaboration with the Finnish Meteorological Institute and NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. MEDA includes wind sensing units, light sensors that can identify whirlwinds as they spread sunlight around the rover, and a sky-facing electronic camera for capturing images of dust and clouds.
” Jezero Crater might remain in among the most active sources of dust in the world,” stated Manuel de la Torre Juarez, MEDAs deputy principal private investigator at JPL. “Everything new we learn more about dust will be useful for future missions.”
Regular Whirlwinds
The study authors discovered that a minimum of 4 whirlwinds pass Perseverance on a normal Martian day which more than one per hour goes by throughout a peak hourlong period simply after midday.
This series of images from a navigation video camera aboard NASAs Perseverance rover reveals a gust of wind sweeping dust throughout the Martian plain beyond the rovers tracks on June 18, 2021 (the 117th sol, or Martian day, of the mission). The dust cloud in this GIF was approximated to be 1.5 square miles (4 square kilometers) in size; it was the very first such Martian wind-lifted dust cloud of this scale ever captured in images. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
The rovers electronic cameras likewise documented 3 occasions in which wind gusts lifted large dust clouds, something the researchers call “gust-lifting events.” The biggest of these developed an enormous cloud covering 1.5 square miles (4 square kilometers). The paper estimated that these wind gusts might collectively lift as much or more dust as the whirlwinds that far outnumber them.
” We believe these gust-liftings are irregular but might be accountable for a large portion of the background dust that hovers all the time in the Martian atmosphere,” Newman stated.
Why Is Jezero Different?
While wind and dust prevail all over Mars, what the researchers are finding seems to set Jezero apart. This higher activity may be linked to the crater being near what Newman refers to as a “dust storm track” that runs north to south throughout the planet, typically lifting dust during the dust storm season.
Newman included that the greater activity in Jezero might be due to aspects such as the roughness of its surface area, which can make it easier for the wind to raise dust. That might be one description why NASAs InSight lander– in Elysium Planitia, about 2,145 miles (3,452 kilometers) far from Jezero Crater– is still waiting for a whirlwind to clear its dust-laden solar panels, while Perseverance has actually already determined nearby surface dust elimination by a number of passing whirlwinds.
” Perseverance is nuclear-powered, however if we had photovoltaic panels rather, we most likely wouldnt have to stress over dust accumulation,” Newman said. “Theres typically simply more dust lifting in Jezero Crater, though average wind speeds are lower there and peak wind speeds and whirlwind activity are equivalent to Elysium Planitia.”
In truth, Jezeros dust lifting has been more extreme than the team would have desired: Sand carried in whirlwinds damaged MEDAs 2 wind sensors. The group believes the sand grains hurt the thin wiring on the wind sensors, which stick out from Perseverances mast. Due to the fact that they should stay exposed to the wind in order to measure it correctly, these sensing units are particularly susceptible. Sand grains blown in the wind, and most likely brought in whirlwinds, also damaged among the Curiosity rovers wind sensors (Curiositys other wind sensor was damaged by debris churned up during its landing in Gale Crater).
With Curiositys damage in mind, the Perseverance group offered an extra protective coating to MEDAs wires. Yet Jezeros weather still got the much better of them. De la Torre Juarez said the team is testing software changes that must allow the wind sensors to keep working.
” We gathered a great deal of terrific science data,” de la Torre Juarez stated. “The wind sensors are seriously impacted, ironically, since we got what we wished to measure.”
Referral: “The dynamic climatic and aeolian environment of Jezero crater, Mars” by Claire E. Newman, Ricardo Hueso, Mark T. Lemmon, Asier Munguira, Álvaro Vicente-Retortillo, Víctor Apestigue, Germán M. Martínez, Daniel Toledo, Rob Sullivan, Ken E. Herkenhoff, Manuel de la Torre Juárez, Mark I. Richardson, Alexander E. Stott, Naomi Murdoch, Agustín Sanchez-Lavega, Michael J. Wolff, Ignacio Arruego, Eduardo Sebastián, Sara Navarro, Javier Gómez-Elvira, Leslie Tamppari, Daniel Viúdez-Moreiras, Ari-Matti Harri, Maria Genzer, Maria Hieta, Ralph D. Lorenz, Pan Conrad, Felipe Gómez, Timothy H. McConnochie, David Mimoun, Christian Tate, Tanguy Bertrand, James F. Bell, Justin N. Maki, Jose Antonio Rodriguez-Manfredi, Roger C. Wiens, Baptiste Chide, Sylvestre Maurice, Maria-Paz Zorzano, Luis Mora, Mariah M. Baker, Don Banfield, Jorge Pla-Garcia, Olivier Beyssac, Adrian Brown, Ben Clark, Alain Lepinette, Franck Montmessin, Erik Fischer, Priyaben Patel, Teresa del Río-Gaztelurrutia, Thierry Fouchet, Raymond Francis and Scott D. Guzewich, 25 May 2022, Science Advances.DOI: 10.1126/ sciadv.abn3783.
More About the Mission.
A key objective for Perseverances objective on Mars is astrobiology, consisting of the look for indications of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the worlds geology and past climate, lead the way for human expedition of the Red Planet, and be the very first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA objectives, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send out spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface area and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASAs Moon to Mars expedition method, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help get ready for human expedition of the Red Planet.
JPL, which is handled for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, developed and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.