Mars Dust Storm Could Lead To New Weather Discoveries, Experts Say

Posted: Jul 2 2018, 12:03am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Mars Dust Storm could Lead to New Weather Discoveries, Experts Say
Artist's impression of Martian dust storm. Credit: NASA

The recent dust storms offers a unique look at how storms form and behave on Mars

A massive dust storm has engulfed almost entire Red Planet over the past month and blocked out much of sunlight. As a result, one of two current robotic rovers on Mars had to suspend its operation. Researchers fear that the storm would not end anytime soon.

Dust forms frequently occur on Mars and can envelop the whole planet in a matter of days. Although the recent one is among the thickest storms ever observed on the planet, it offers a unique opportunity to understand formation and behavior of extraterrestrial storms.

"If we can learn more about the atmospheric conditions of Mars, we may be able to land in more interesting places, such as those with hills and craters rather than flat terrain.” Steven Greybush from Penn State Institute said in a statement.

NASA has been tracking Mars dust storms for years. Storms on Mars usually occur in the southern hemisphere and in summer, when the planet is closest to the Sun. As sunlight warms dust particles, it lifts them higher into the atmosphere and generates more wind and that in turn kicks up yet more dust. The whole process triggers a unique cycle that scientists still want to understand.

In 2007, a massive dust storm blanketed a huge area of Mars. Since that time, NASA scientists have been patiently waiting for a severe dust storm. The recent storm has blocked direct sunlight to the surface and disrupted the function of the solar-powered Opportunity rover. Curiosity, powered by plutonium, remained largely unaffected by the dust.

"We are seeing the impact of this storm on Opportunity because it has caused it to shut down," said Greybush. "Opportunity is in the heart of the storm."

Using sophisticated technology, researches can observe the evolution of dust storms on Mars and can learn more about them, including why some grow into massive storms that cover the almost entire planet.

"People ask why we study Mars' weather and the simple answer is a scientific curiosity," said Greybush. "We want to know what storms and weather are like on other planets. Are they similar or are they different? These dust storms give us data and insight into these processes."

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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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