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Mars dust storm has encircled the entire planet

Posted on Saturday, 23 June, 2018 | Comment icon 66 comments

This selfie taken by the Curiosity rover shows the dust-filled sky. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The dust storm that left the Opportunity rover out of commission is now classed as 'planet-encircling'.
The storm, which began to kick up swirling clouds of red dust at the end of last month, is now so extensive that the entire planet has been surrounded by it, NASA scientists have revealed.

While the Opportunity rover, which relies on solar panels, remains in low power mode, Curiosity, which is powered by a radioisotope battery, is still going strong, providing a unique opportunity for scientists to study the dust storm from the surface of the planet.

As the days go on, the sky has been steadily darkening and it is uncertain how long the storm will last. Some dust storms on Mars have been known to continue for months.

Learning as much as possible about severe weather on the Red Planet is particularly important as any data collected during the storm could prove invaluable for future human explorers.

Scientists believe that heat is the primary driving force behind such storms.

"If you have sunlight that reaches the surface and heats it up, that creates an instability where warm air rises up," said planetary scientist Tanya Harrison. "On Mars, there's so much of this loose dust lying on the surface that when you have these upward winds, they take a lot of the dust with it."

Source: Sky and Telescope | Comments (66)

Tags: Mars, Dust Storm

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #57 Posted by qxcontinuum on 24 June, 2018, 4:05
So a planet who lost its entire atmosphere is not engolfed in a planetary storm? How so?
Comment icon #58 Posted by qxcontinuum on 24 June, 2018, 10:02
Correction; is now* engolfed .
Comment icon #59 Posted by toast on 24 June, 2018, 16:06
As well known already, you are clueless on the matter. Mars didn't "lost its entire atmosphere" (yet).
Comment icon #60 Posted by bison on 24 June, 2018, 20:01
Mars' atmosphere has about 6/1000th the pressure of Earth's. Remarkably, this is sufficient to sustainplanet-wide dust storms. There are also whirlwinds, fog, clouds of crystalline water ice and frozen carbon dioxide, jet streams, and aurorae.
Comment icon #61 Posted by Merc14 on 24 June, 2018, 23:15
Couldn't you have simply google Mars atmosphere before posting this? It's like posting that you are proud to be completely ignorant on a subject. BTW, you corrected your misspelling by posting the same wrong spelling again.
Comment icon #62 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 25 June, 2018, 0:47
It wasn't engulfed he corrected, it was "not" to "now". English is not his first language so the spelling mistakes are forgivable. Constantly posting information which is provably false is not.
Comment icon #63 Posted by Merc14 on 25 June, 2018, 1:31
LOL, I completely missed that as my eye went to the more obvious, my bad. I apologize qx as I normally wouldn't correct spelling except I thought...never mind, I apologize. The rest of my comment stands qx.
Comment icon #64 Posted by Occams Razor on 25 June, 2018, 7:16
Even if a fan/blower had been included there wouldn't be enough sunlight reaching the panels through all the dust blowing around in the dust storm... it will be miles thick.
Comment icon #65 Posted by cyclopes500 on 25 June, 2018, 15:41
If I had a billion quid to spend I'd like to send a tracked nuclear powered rover to the Marsian poles to look at the ice.
Comment icon #66 Posted by Merc14 on 25 June, 2018, 16:01
I don't think it is because of money, it is a because of the 1967 outer space treaty which forbids everyone from sending a robot or human anywhere near a possible water source for fear of contaminating it. Right now it is nearly impossible to completely sterilize any device we send to Mars due to the inherent resilience of terrestrial microbes and until we can resolve that problem we are forced to analyze from a distance.

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