NASA’s Mars Rover Takes Incredible Selfie During Raging Dust Storm

Posted: Jun 20 2018, 1:08pm CDT | by , Updated: Jun 20 2018, 1:15pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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NASA’s Mars Rover Takes Incredible Selfie During Raging Dust Storm
Credit: Seán Doran

One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past weeks

NASA’s Curiosity rover has snapped a stunning self-portrait in the middle of massive dust storm on Mars. The image is a composite made from several images and is processed by NASA scientist Seán Doran. The incredible image shows not only the rover but also sand and rocks on its current location in the Gale Crater. However, the features in the background are obscured by raging dust storm.

“It's blended out of the shot. The arm moves around as it takes about 100 images to make a full 360 (degree image).” Seán Doran said in a statement.

A thick dust storm has been spreading for the past two weeks on Mars. The storm is one of the most intense ever observed on the Red Planet. It has now covered over 15 million square miles, more than one quarter of Mars. The unusually intense dust storm has blocked out so much sunlight that one of two currently operating rovers on Mars had to suspend science operations. Mars rover Opportunity relies on solar power to recharge its batteries, to operate and to keep itself warm. The solar-powered vehicle is currently in its sleep mode. If the dust storm continues to intensify, it will raise concern about the rover’s survival on Mars.

“The dust here is thicker than anything I have ever encountered, going back to Viking missions,” said Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson. “It’s dark, like the end of twilight dark.”

While dust storm across Mars has shut down aging Opportunity, NASA’s Curiosity rover is still functioning properly thanks to its different power system. Unlike Opportunity rover, Curiosity uses the heat decaying plutonium dioxide as its fuel. So the robotic vehicle is not much affected by current dust storm. In fact, the storm offers Curiosity a unique opportunity to look at how dust storms form and evolve outside Earth. This knowledge will be essential for future robotic and human missions on Mars.

Mars is known for its frequent dust storms. Sometimes they can even blanket the whole planet. These massive, planet-circling storms occur once every three to four Mars years (six to eight Earth years). The last one was in 2007.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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