The Martian Tempest

NASA scientists are closely watching a dust storm on Mars that threatens to go global and interfere with rovers on the planet’s surface.

By | November 26, 2012

A dust storm obscures the surface of Mars in September 2001.Wikimedia, NASAIn the first weeks of Martian dust storm season, NASA scientists have spotted a sizeable squall on the red planet that is absorbing sunlight and has already raised atmospheric temperatures. Dust from the swirling storm, which has the potential to blanket the planet, could blur photos from NASA’s Curiosity rover and block solar panels on the older Opportunity rover.

"This is now a regional dust storm," Rich Zurek, NASA's chief Mars scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, said in a statement last week (November 21). "It has covered a fairly extensive region with its dust haze, and it is in a part of the planet where some regional storms have grown into global dust hazes."

The Opportunity rover, which arrived on Mars in 2004 to explore an area of the planet called the Meridiani Planum that scientists suspect may be ancient hot springs, has already indicated haziness in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, halfway around the planet, the Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in August in search of life and carrying a built-in weather station, is detecting warmer night-time temperatures and a drop in atmospheric pressure. NASA scientists report that the storm has so far raised the planet’s temperatures by 45 degrees Fahrenheit, up from its typical minus 80.

NASA scientists will continue to track the Martian tempest, which is part of a seasonal pattern of dust storms sparked by onset of the Martian spring in the southern hemisphere. "One thing we want to learn is why do some Martian dust storms get to this size and stop growing, while others this size keep growing and go global," Zurek said. 


Add a Comment

Avatar of: You



Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Popular Now

  1. Sex Differences in the Brain
    Features Sex Differences in the Brain

    How male and female brains diverge is a hotly debated topic, but the study of model organisms points to differences that cannot be ignored.

  2. Brain Gain
    Features Brain Gain

    Young neurons in the adult human brain are likely critical to its function.

  3. DNA Repair Pioneers Win Nobel
    Daily News DNA Repair Pioneers Win Nobel

    Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich, and Aziz Sancar have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work elucidating mechanisms of DNA repair.

  4. Antiparasite Drug Developers Win Nobel
    Daily News Antiparasite Drug Developers Win Nobel

    William Campbell, Satoshi Omura, and Youyou Tu have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in recognition of their contributions to antiparasitic drug development.

Enzo Life Sciences
Enzo Life Sciences
Life Technologies