What A Dust Devil Looks Like On Mars

The image really is out of this world.

A dust devil has been photographed swirling on Mars.

NASA's Opportunity rover captured the astonishing image in the red planet's Meridiani Planum region.

"This is one of the best dust devils that we have seen in Meridiani Planum," Opportunity's deputy principal investigator Ray Arvidson told Mashable. "We are lucky to have captured this one in an image!"

According to NASA, dust devils on Mars form the same way they do in deserts on Earth. They are essentially spinning columns of air which appear on clear days after the ground has soaked up heat from the sun. We can see them because of the dust and dirt they suck up.

A Martian dust devil that rose more than half a mile high was caught on camera by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as it passed over the red planet's Amazonis Planitia region in 2012. And in 2005, Opportunity's sister explorer Spirit captured this whirlwind sweeping across the Martian terrain:

The golf cart-size Opportunity and Spirit rovers landed on Mars in 2004. Both were tasked with searching for signs of past water activity on the planet. After finding such evidence, they just kept on trundling along. 

Spirit was declared "dead" in 2011 once communications with Earth ceased. But Opportunity is still going strong, as this sensational image confirms.