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An important and perhaps dominant source of dust in the Martian atmosphere, dust devils play a key role in Mars' climate. Data sets from previous landed missions have revealed dust devil activity, constrained their structures, and elucidated their dust-lifting capacities. However, each landing site and observational season exhibits unique meteorological properties that shape dust devil activity and illuminate their dependence on ambient conditions. The recent release of data from the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) instrument suite on board the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover promises a new treasure trove for dust devil studies. In this study, we sift the time series from MEDA's Pressure Sensor (PS) and Radiative and Dust Sensors (RDS) to look for the signals of passing vortices and dust devils. We detected 309 vortex encounters over the mission's first 89 sols. Consistent with predictions, these encounter rates exceed InSight and Curiosity's encounter rates. The RDS time series also allows us to assess whether a passing vortex is likely to be dusty (and therefore is a true dust devil) or dustless. We find that about one quarter of vortices show signs of dust lofting, although unfavorable encounter geometries may have prevented us from detecting dust for other vortices. In addition to these results, we discuss prospects for vortex studies as additional data from Mars 2020 are processed and made available.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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