Giant ‘serpent’ dust devil on Mars

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Dust devils have been seen and photographed many times on Mars, including by the rovers. The newest dramatic image, recently taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, has to be one of the very best yet. The towering dust plume is estimated to be about 800 metres (2,625 feet) tall(!), and casts a long dark shadow. A long tail also curves out from the main plume itself, gently shaped by a westerly breeze.

Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.


  1. For what its worth, all these “dust devils” on Mars are NOT natural events.

    There is an intelligence behind them or an intelligence at work.

    To state that these dust devils are the result of solar heating is an assumption on our part. Even arrogance.

  2. Wait, isn’t that “long dark shadow” actually the path of the dust devil, with the lighter colored soil removed? I’m not seeing anything that looks to me like an actual shadow.

    1. Nope, according to the HiRISE description I linked to, that is the shadow (most of it), as the dust devil is very tall as mentioned, and it was moving from northwest to southeast. The brighter trail behind it can be seen in the wider view images linked to (see “numerous bright tracks”) on the HiRISE page. It isn’t all that prominent, but you can see it. The dust devil tracks in this region are bright instead of dark, as is usual elsewhere on Mars.

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