Ancient cosmic impacts on Mars may have created powerful wind vortices similar to sideways tornadoes and those whirling winds would have rolled across the Red Planet's surface, a new study finds.
Peter Schultz and Stephanie Quintana, analyzed infrared images taken during nighttime on Mars by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. Areas that appeared brighter at night were surfaces that retained more heat from the previous day than surrounding regions, 'just as grassy fields give off heat more quickly than rock,' Schultz explained.
These streaks can extend quite far from the impacts that created them. For instance, on the 20 km Santa Fe crater in the flat lowland region in Mars' northern hemisphere known as Chryse Planitia, the streaks can extend more than 120 km away from the point of impact.
When an asteroid, comet or other body strikes a planet at high speed, tons of material from both the impactor and the surface it hits gets vaporized instantly. This vapor travels outward at very high speeds from the impact point and interacts with the atmosphere to create very strong vortices. These winds can exceed 1000 km/h.
 Schultz, Quintana: Impact-generated winds on Mars in Icarus – 2017