Huge Storm On Mars Covers One-Fourth Of The Red Planet

Posted: Jun 18 2018, 2:36am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Huge Storm On Mars Covers One-Fourth of The Red Planet
Credit: NASA

Nasa’s Opportunity Rover Suspends operations due to Storm on Mars.

For the last week and a half, a massive and thick storm has been developing on Mars; its size is so large that it has covered around one-quarter of the whole planet. Due to non-availability of sunlight Nasa’s Opportunity rover has to temporarily shut down all of its scientific operations, opportunity rover is powered by its solar panels, and the storm has obstructed the sunlight that is required for charging the batteries of the spacecraft.

Although this event has caused Opportunity rover to cease its operations, the event has also offered Nasa an opportunity to learn more about Mar’s climate by using other four spacecraft. In total, Nasa has two spacecrafts operating on Martian surface and three other spacecrafts orbiting around the red planet.

"This is the ideal storm for Mars science," said Jim Watzin, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. "We have a historic number of spacecraft operating at the Red Planet. Each offers a unique look at how dust storms form and behave -- knowledge that will be essential for future robotic and human missions."

Curiosity rover, that is carrying its scientific operations on the other side of the planet (Gale crater region) is also experiencing more dust in the atmosphere. However, the spacecraft is still operational and sending atmospheric data and images to Nasa command center.

Unlike Opportunity rover, instead of being powered by solar panels, Curiosity rover is powered by nuclear batteries so availability of sunlight has no effects on its operations.

“All dust events, regardless of size, help shape the Martian surface. Studying their physics is critical to understanding the ancient and modern Martian climate," said Rich Zurek, a chief scientist for the Mars Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"Each observation of these large storms brings us closer to being able to model these events -- and maybe, someday, being able to forecast them," Zurek said. "That would be like forecasting El Niño events on Earth, or the severity of upcoming hurricane seasons."

Such dust storms are quite common on Mars; they keep on occurring throughout the whole year, but it's only on a few occasions when they cover the whole planet, last time such massive storms on Mars were observed in the year 2007. Storms on Mars usually last for weeks but in rare cases, they may continue for few months.

Just for information, one year on Mars is nearly two times that on Earth.

Storms on Mars are very different from that on Earth, due to its thin atmosphere even the biggest of storms do not exceed the speed of 50 to 60 km per hour.

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