Phenomena

Ingenuity’s Dust Cloud

The Ingenuity helicopter in flight on Mars.

Mars is quite dusty. It periodically gets swallowed by planet-spanning dust storms, but it’s also home to regular dust devils whose size can put Earth’s to shame. Exactly how so much dust gets picked up by Mars’ incredibly thin atmosphere — only 1% of Earth’s — is still something of a mystery. So scientists were excited after the Ingenuity helicopter’s fourth flight, where cameras on the Perseverance rover caught a billowing dust cloud following Ingenuity as it flew. Knowing how the helicopter flies, they may be able to unravel just how its wake picks up and carries dust. Since Ingenuity’s only purpose was to demonstrate flight on another planet, this would be a big scientific bonus for an already successful mission! (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/SSI; via Nature; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh and jpshoer)

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