Published: Sun, June 24, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Martian dust storm has become 'planet-encircling,' NASA says

Martian dust storm has become 'planet-encircling,' NASA says

In addition to Curiosity's weather observations on the surface, NASA has several other spacecraft tracking the storm from orbit: the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and MAVEN orbiter studying the Martian atmosphere. Curiosity was far away from the dust storm when it began, but now it's fully engulfed as the storm expands to cover most of Mars.

"Those storms totally obscured the planet's surface, save for the peaks of Mars' tallest volcanoes", NASA said in an update Wednesday.

The image has been captured recently by the NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

"Red Rover", which is already available on Steam, puts us in the seat of a very powerful rover and allows us to drive on Mars and explore the Red Planet's surface.

The dust levels have more than doubled since the weekend with a tau or haze amount of 8.0 measured at the Gale Crater.

Opportunity, in its 15th year of exploration, is the oldest operating rover on Mars. As of Tuesday morning, NASA confirmed that the Martian dust storm has now grown in size and is now officially a "planet-encircling" dust event.

"We don't have any good idea", Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in the statement. At left is an image from Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) taken on May 21, 2018, before the storm. As the sunlight passing through the atmosphere, the dust grains filter out the blue part of the spectrum, and most of the green, leaving only the colours towards the red end of the spectrum. They do know that dust storms are common, especially when Mars is closest to the sun during spring and summer.

The dust storm battering Opportunity is now a global storm, NASA reports. This sun-obstructing wall of haze is about six to eight times thicker than normal for this time of season.

On the other hand, the Curiosity probe is reportedly offering an unprecedented window in order to answer some questions for NASA scientists and "why do some of the Martian dust storms tend to last for months and rapidly grow massive, while others storms stay small and last only for a week?" is the biggest among them. Curiosity is taking longer exposures due to low-light conditions and even rotates its camera to focus on the ground to avoid dust that is blown its way.

In a press conference last week, NASA officials said they expect Opportunity will survive the dust storm. Carbon dioxide ice (dry ice) embedded in the planet's polar ice caps also evaporates during these months, making the atmosphere extra-thick - this increased pressure helps suspend dust in the air. In some cases, the dust clouds reach up to 40 miles (60 kilometers) or more in elevation.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, almost a week ago the epic dust storm was covering a quarter of the planet, stretching over an area the size of North America.

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