Thickening Haze In Mars Is Now A ‘Planet-Encircling’ Global Dust Storm

  • Thickening Haze In Mars Is Now A ‘Planet-Encircling’ Global Dust Storm

Thickening Haze In Mars Is Now A ‘Planet-Encircling’ Global Dust Storm

As of NASA's latest update on Mars, on June 20, this dust storm had grown to completely wrap around the planet!

The space agency says this global event serves as an opportunity to study why these dust storms like this one last for as long as they do "while others stay small and last only a week". Named the Mars Hand Lens Imager, the instrument can not capture the whole car-sized Curiosity rover, therefore it had to take more than 200 shots, which were later put together to form a single panorama.

But as the NASA Jet Propulsion Center scientist who led that report said, "We can not rule out the possibility that it was created biologically".

"We don't have any good idea", said Scott Guzewich, who is an atmospheric scientist working NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center situated in Greenbelt, Maryland.

While the Opportunity rover has gone offline, the intrepid Curiosity rover is still braving the Martian dust storm, beaming back new footage of the haze on Mars.

"Though Curiosity is on the other side of Mars from Opportunity, dust has steadily increased over it, more than doubling over the weekend", NASA noted in the news release.

A few days ago, the storm covered not just Opportunity's position, but the Curiosity rover's as well, on the other side of the planet. It's supported by fellow rover Curiosity and three orbiters high above: the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the 2001 Mars Odyssey and MAVEN.

Dust storms on Mars have been notoriously hard to predict, both in their development and their longevity.

While this storm is huge, Opportunity made it through an even bigger one in 2007.

The picture was taken using the camera located at the end of Curiosity's arm. As for the 2018 version, NASA has faith on Curiosity to comprehend more about these storms. "The largest impact is to the rover's cameras, which require extra exposure time due to the low lighting". This sun-obstructing wall of haze is about six to eight times thicker than normal for this time of season. These are the months during which Mars is closest to the Sun, and the temperature imbalances in the atmosphere generate winds that mobilize dust grains (this dust is about as fine as talcum powder).

In a press conference last week, NASA officials said they expect Opportunity will survive the dust storm. Sometimes the storms are so intense and kick up enough dust that they can be seen by telescopes on Earth. The atmosphere is so thick with dust, "accurate measurements are no longer possible for Mars' oldest active rover".

The dust clouds can reach 40 miles or more in elevation, which helps the suspended dust particles circulate and cause a global dust event. Vegetation also binds the soil, preventing particles from getting airborne, and rain washes whatever gets in the atmosphere back down.