Martian dust devils offer insight into the planet’s core and surface. The information scientists can obtain by studying dust devils can help guide future missions to the red planet as well as offer additional data about the planet’s core and surface.
A seismometer has been used to identify and study small tilts in the ground as dust devils were passing through California. The data gathered could offer information about how dust devils behave on Mars. Dust devils on the red planet have been observed and filmed in the past during previous Mars exploration missions and their trajectory and traces have been documented.
The tracks which these dust devils leave behind them show where the dust devils have moved the loose soil on the surface of the planet and have revealed the darker soil beneath in the process. If these tracks accumulate over large surfaces they can affect a change in Mars’ typically uniform climate from one year to the next by causing changes in the planet’s solar reflection.
The effects that dust devils have on Earth are not nearly as drastic as the ones on Mars have on the soil there. While the ones on Earth only cause minor modifications to the soil and are considered more of a meteorological curiosity that a significant influence on the climate, the dust devils on Mars are regarded as major dust-raising agents. Dust-raising is one of the major factors that are influencing the climate on Mars.
The amount of dust raised also affects the use and operation of human-made solar-powered vehicles sent to the planet for expeditions and missions. The latest study on dust devils in California has found that the drop in pressure caused by a dust devil with a diameter of roughly 10 meters can be equivalent to that observed when removing a car from the ground surface.
This would of course imply that the damage and impact a larger dust devil could result in is significantly bigger. The conditions on Earth differ to those on Mars of course, so researchers were forced to protect the seismometer they placed in the Californian landscape with a fence to guard against the wildlife that could interfere with the measurements it was meant to take.
The purpose was to see if the instrument could record proof of several sharp temporary pressure drops and manage to connect them to distinctive seismic signatures. This was how they managed to observe the sudden drop in pressure in the case of the 10 meter diameter dust devil.
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