2022 Undergraduate Research Showcase


Comparing Atmospheric and (Inferred) Dust Devil Data from NASA’s Insight and Perseverance Landers

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Brian Jackson


Dust devils are vortex-generated phenomena which routinely occur in arid regions on both Earth and Mars. Martian dust devils are frequently several times larger than those on Earth, and appear to exert a major influence on the dust content and heat budget of the thin Martian atmosphere. The tops of these dust devils can reach (and so allow us to measure) the lower edge of Mars’ Planetary Boundary Layer. The atmospheric conditions required to generate and propagate Martian dust devils, as well as the size range of grains they transport, remain unclear, however.

The Dust Devil research group in Boise State Physics, led by Professor Brian Jackson, has been studying Martian dust devils for three years, starting with pressure, temperature and imagery data from NASA’s 2018 Insight lander and expanding this year to include recently released data from the Mars 2020 rover. We will discuss and compare our findings from both of these Mars missions in answering questions such as: What range of atmospheric conditions promotes vortex formation? What conditions cause vortices to entrain dust (becoming dust devils) vs. remaining dustless? Do some seasons on Mars generate more dust devils than others?

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