Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA
A Martian dust devil roughly 12 miles high (20 kilometers) was captured whirling its way along the Amazonis Planitia region of Northern Mars on March 14.
Despite its height, the plume is little more than three-quarters of a football field wide (70 yards, or 70 meters).
Dust devils are spinning columns of air, made visible by the dust they pull off the ground.
Unlike a tornado, a dust devil typically forms on a clear day when the ground is heated by the sun, warming the air just above the ground.
As heated air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler air above it, the air may begin to rotate, if conditions are just right.
The image was taken on March 14, 2012, during late northern spring when the ground heated by the sun.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been examining the Red Planet with six science instruments since 2006.
Now in an extended mission, the orbiter continues to provide insights into the planet's ancient environments and how processes such as wind, meteorite impacts and seasonal frosts continue to affect the Martian surface today.
This mission has returned more data about Mars than all other orbital and surface missions combined.