Tags: martian | dust | storm | curiosity

Martian Dust Storm Engulfs Planet as Curiosity Takes Pics

Martian Dust Storm Engulfs Planet as Curiosity Takes Pics
A Martian dust storm reduced sunlight and visibility in Gale Crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

By    |   Thursday, 21 June 2018 05:40 PM

A Martian dust storm has engulfed the entire planet in an astronomical event that has astounded NASA officials.

Only a week ago, the looming storm covered just one-fourth of Mars. Now it is “officially a ‘planet-encircling’ (or ‘global’) dust event,” NASA said in a statement.

The massive Martian dust storm even knocked out communication with NASA land rover Opportunity, losing contact with ground control on June 12. Engineers believe the rover is waiting out the storm for lack of sunlight, but it remains on low power to check batteries once in a while for further communication, Space.com reported.

NASA doesn’t expect to hear from the rover until the planet’s skies begin to clear and has suspended operations temporarily. Opportunity has “long-term survivability” even in the cold temperatures of Mars and can stay warm enough to function later on, NASA said. But that doesn’t stop operators from checking on the rover every day.

However, another rover, the nuclear-powered Curiosity, is on the opposite side of the planet from Opportunity and sending pictures back that reveal the dust storm’s darkening effects on Mars. 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.

Opportunity has been on Mars since 2004 and lost contact for a few days during another global dust storm in 2007 due to the darkened skies. NASA officials consider that storm even bigger than the recent one. 

This storm, first detected May 30, is on par with a storm observed by Viking 1 in 1977. Other larger storms were observed in 1971, 1972, and 2001 by orbiters.

“The current dust storm is more diffuse and patchy; it’s anyone’s guess how it will further develop, but it shows no sign of clearing,” NASA stated.

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A Martian dust storm has engulfed the entire planet in an astronomical event that has astounded NASA officials.
martian, dust, storm, curiosity
305
2018-40-21
Thursday, 21 June 2018 05:40 PM
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