In just two weeks, dust storms have obscured more than 10 million square miles of the Mars' southern hemisphere.
The storms forced NASA to suspend operations of its twin Mars rovers. The biggest storm has weakened near the Opportunity rover and thickened near Spirit's location. Both rovers are gathering enough solar energy to survive and observe their surroundings, lead rover scientist said yesterday.
Such dramatic dust storms, however, aren't the only weather phenomenon Mars has to offer. The Red Planet hosts clouds of ice and carbon dioxide, tornado-like dust devils, auroras and even complex jet streams — all of this, despite an atmosphere less than 1 percent as dense as Earth's.
During the summer, it can be as warm as a day in the tropics, as high as 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Wilson said. Martian nights, however, are blisteringly cold and can reach -180 degrees Fahrenheit. Such bone-chilling temperatures can contract and snap the soldered metal joints of unheated electronic circuit boards — an imminent threat to any mission to Mars.
A billion years of wind erosion has created really fine dust on Mars, and the absence of water prevents it from cementing it back together like it does on Earth. Once the dust devils get going, they can whip the ultra-fine dust around at around 70 mph.
Planetary scientists think the dusty tornadoes, when persistent and large enough, are responsible for creating light-drowning global dust storms, as they seem to do every three Martian years (about six Earth years).
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Dust devils tear across Mars
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