Mars Now Completely Engulfed in Planet-Wide Dust Storm

Scientists and dreamers drawing up humanity’s future on the Red Planet should take a closer look at the event currently unfolding on the neighboring planet and include planet-wide dust storms in their simulations.
NASA's nuclear-powered Curiosity takes a photo of the Martian dust storm 1 photo
Photo: NASA
On June 1, NASA detected a dust storm forming in the vicinity of its Opportunity Rover. In the over two weeks that have passed, the storm grew so large that as of Wednesday, June 19, it covers the entire planet.

According to the American space agency, there was only one other time humans have detected a storm similar in size. It happened in 1977 when Viking I was passing by. The 2018 storm is however slightly bigger than that and definitely much bigger than the ones observed by Mariner 9 in 1971-1972 and Mars Global Surveyor in 2001.

The first Martian dust storm was recorded by French astronomer Honore Flaugergues in 1809. Adding to that the observations made since, it becomes clear that despite its allure, Mars is a very inhospitable place.

The storms are generated by large contrasts in surface temperature at different locations. Lacking any vegetation that would stop the dust from getting picked up by winds, particles the size of individual talcum powder grains rise up and can reach up to 40 miles (60 kilometers) in elevation.

Despite the severity of the current storm and its yet unknown duration, NASA is still hopeful the battered Opportunity rover might survive after all.

The solar-powered Opportunity is severely affected by the lack of sunlight, and the power levels have dropped, requiring the machine to enter minimal operations mode. It hasn’t responded to NASA’s calls, but engineers are confident the electronics and batteries can stay warm enough to function in the severe cold.

On the other side of the planet, NASA’s other rover, the Curiosity, is somewhat safer, as it doesn’t use solar power, but has a nuclear-powered battery.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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