Mars Odyssey’s Picture of the Day: Dust Devil Tracks

This image, centered near 50.0 S and 17.7 W displays dust devil tracks on the surface. Most of the lighter portions of the image likely have a thin veneer of dust settled on the surface. As a dust devil passes over the surface, it acts as a vacuum and picks up the dust, leaving the darker substrate exposed. In this image there is a general trend of many of the tracks running from east to west or west to east, indicating the general wind direction. There is often no general trend present in dust devil tracks seen in other images. The track patterns are quite ephemeral and can completely change or even disappear over the course of a few months. Dust devils are one of the mechanisms that Mars uses to constantly pump dust into the ubiquitously dusty atmosphere. This atmospheric dust is one of the main driving forces of the present Martian climate.