NASA shares a GIF of whirlwinds whirling across Mars' dusty plains

Captured on the 148th Martian day of the mission.
Chris Young
An image of a 'dust devil' on Mars.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

A set of new images provides a window into the alien, inhospitable Jezero Crater lakebed on Mars.

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover captured three images of dust devils — small whirlwinds — on the location, where it landed in 2021 to start its search for signs of ancient life.

The rover captured the images on July 20, 2021, the 148th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, using its Navigation Camera (M2020), according to NASA. They have since been enhanced to maximize detail via color distortion, and, as they were taken roughly 15 seconds apart, they were presented in GIF form.

The GIF, therefore, provides a fascinating glimpse of the red planet's surface, where NASA and SpaceX aim to take humans at some point next decade.

Searching for ancient microbial life on Mars

The Mars Perseverance mission is searching for signs of ancient microbial life on the red planet, and it has recently been aided by the Ingenuity helicopter, which has become a fully-fledged aerial scout after it surpassed its initial mission parameters of five flights.

NASA shares a GIF of whirlwinds whirling across Mars' dusty plains
The images of the 'dust devils' on Mars compiled as a GIF. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

The Perseverance rover has been tasked with taking rock samples that will be placed in select locations for the future Mars return mission — in collaboration with the European Space Agency — to retrieve and return to Earth.

It is also paving the way for NASA's plans to send humans to the red planet. Before they do that, however, they will first send humans back to the surface of the Moon with their upcoming Artemis III mission, which will launch aboard a SpaceX Starship rocket.

The Mars Perseverance mission has achieved several historic firsts

NASA's rover is nearing its "main astrobiliogy target", as it recently started its ascent of an ancient delta feature known as "Hawksbill Gap" on Mars.

The space agency believes the rover has the greatest chance of unearthing signs of ancient life at this location as the delta would have naturally collected river deposits including nutrients when the red planet once had flowing water on its surface.

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The Perseverance rover landed on Mars' Jezero Crater on February 18 last year. Since that time, it has helped to provide new evidence that the Jezero Crater was once a lake thanks to images of the surrounding rock formations and deltas. Perseverance has also helped to carry out several historic firsts, including the first controlled flight on Mars and the first extraction of breathable oxygen on the red planet.

It will be some time before the Perseverance team can retrieve the rover's samples and analyze them for signs of ancient microbial life. For now though, we have fascinating images from the mission showing us the dusty alien expanse that may one day be home for the first humans to make it to the red planet.

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