In addition to sounding like an awesome name for a rock band, Martian dust devils have been intriguing astronomers and climatologists for decades. Here’s some amazing trivia about these red planet whirlwinds.
1. They Can Be Over Ten Times As High As Their Earth-Based Counterparts
2. And Fifty Times As Wide!
For those unfamiliar with dust devils, check out this footage taken in Ontario, Canada back in 2007. This one’s actually on the smaller side: on Earth large individuals can sport a 20-meter diameter, whereas Martian individuals often exceed a full kilometer.
3. The First Martian Dust Devil Photographs Were Taken in the 1970s
4. They Create Strange, Worm-Like Tracks on Mars' Surface
Here’s a gorgeous photo snapped over Mars’ equator in 2008.
5. Scientists Have Been Honing Their Ability to Predict These Whirlwinds
Worried that, should man ever land on Mars, future astronauts’ helmets could be damaged by these storms, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey have recently been improving their capacity to anticipate dust devils.
6. One of Them Inadvertently Cleaned A NASA Rover
Launched in 2004, the Spirit rover’s solar panels had been heavily coated with dust—depleting its power levels—when a passing devil removed the obstructive particles, giving it a badly-needed energy boost.
7. Despite Their Size, Martian Dust Devils Aren’t Very Powerful Compared to Those on Our Planet
Earth’s dust devils have their Martian rivals beaten in at least one category: ours can be far more destructive. As this page explains, Mars’ whirlwinds can reach speeds of 55 mph, but due to the relative thinness of its atmosphere, they exert much less force than identical storms would on the blue planet.