A Dust Devil on Mars and Other Weather Closer To Home.

27-May-2005
Spirit’s Wind-Driven Traveler on Mars (Spirit Sol 486)
Movie clip:
This movie clip shows a single dust devil that lofts dust into the air about 2 kilometers (1 mile) away, moving across a plain inside Mars' Gusev Crater for several minutes.
GIF (6 MB) | Quick Time (1.8 MB)
A dust devil spins across the surface of Gusev Crater just before noon on Mars. NASA’s Spirit rover took the series of images in this spectacular 21-frame animation with its navigation camera on the rover’s martian day, or sol, 486 (May 15, 2005).The event occurred during a period of 9 minutes and 35 seconds beginning at 11:48 a.m. local Mars time, recording the dust devil’s progress in a northeasterly direction about 1.0 kilometer (0.62 mile) away from Spirit’s perch on the slopes of the “Columbia Hills.” The whirlwind was traveling at about 4.8 meters per second (16 feet per second) and covered a distance of about 1.6 kilometers (1 mile).

Contrast has been enhanced for anything in the images that changes from frame to frame, that is, for the dust devil. The dust devil is about 34 meters (112 feet) in diameter.

Image credit: NASA/JPL

That there is such a thing as local Mars time seems to stretch my mind. The fact that a dust devil whirled across a desolate plain in front of remotely monitored device millions of miles from any person and that an image of it was captured for as long as the technology exists to replay and eyes that can witness it. For a mile it danced and then dissolved into atmosphere and falling particulate.  

For some reason, it makes me think of all those songs we sent out in the Voyager spacecraft, and especially the haunting sound of Blind Willie Johnson’s wailing blues, and hugeness of what we don’t know about our own planet and being human. A man I know died today. I did not know him well, though I greeted him almost daily for 2 years and was lately working with him in therapy. The details of his life, his catastrophes and loves, were mostly unknown to me. How do I balance the hugeness of a life that comes down to decisions made without much thought that lead to incidents that leave a person struggling to breathe and the fact that I know that there are dust devils on mars and what the local time was when they happened. What was the local time on Mars when this man died. I didn’t know he was dead until I couldn’t find him. I thought he was out napping in the sun. I moved through my day shuffling other patients into his slot and thinking. “He’s out there relaxing and having a smoke and snooze, because that’s what he does on nice days.” All this has somehow connected in my mind in ways I have not quite figured out yet. My life is not greatly changed by a man’s death or dust devils on Mars, but they are both markers that send the imagination reeling into the abyss full possibilities and inevitabilities that spring out of nowhere even though they are with us and have been long before we sent machines to Mars or we were launched into this life.  

Image result for supercell thunderstorm

This entry was posted in All part of the process, Being Human, capturing light, change, Geographies of Death, Measuring Time and Space, mindworks, my life, Other peoples words, paying attention, philosophy, thinking in words, wonder world, working world and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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