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Epic dust storm on Mars now fully covers the Red Planet

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity broke this self-portrait on June 15, 2018 at Gale Crater during a growing dust storm. Since then, the dust storm has engulfed all of Mars.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech )

On Mars, the sky is dust.

A huge dust storm on Mars which is under one fourth of the planet just a week ago has grown into a global weather event, NASA officials said Wednesday (June 20).

The dust storm has knocked NASA’s Opportunity rover offline want of sunlight. The agency for nuclear-powered Curiosity, meanwhile, is snapping pictures of the ever-darkening Martian sky. The two rovers are on opposite sides of Mars.

“The Mars-dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a ‘planet-encircling’ (or ‘global’) dust event,” NASA officials said in a statement. [The Mars Dust Storm of 2018 Explained]

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The last dust storm on Mars global deal took place in 2007, five years before the Curiosity rover landed in the Gale Crater at the site, according to officials with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The Opportunity rover has been exploring the plains of Meridiani Ground on the other side of Mars since 2004. During the 2007 Martian dust storm, NASA also lost contact with Possibility for days due to low energy levels from lack of sunlight.

NASA lost contact with Chance last week missed a check-call on 12 June. NASA engineers think that the rover is in a low-power mode, waking only periodically to check whether the batteries are charged enough to phone home. All science operations by the rover were suspended, while it waits out the storm.

“A recent analysis of the rover on the long-term survival in Mars’ extreme cold suggests the Occasion of the electronics and the batteries can stay warm enough to function,” NASA officials wrote in a separate update Wednesday. “Regardless of the project does not expect to hear back from Opportunity up to the sky starting to clear over the rover. That makes it stop them to listen for the rover every day.”

The Martian dust storm was observed on 30 May by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. As soon as it was clear that the storm would affect the Opportunity, the rover was ordered into a sort of survival mode. A series of photographs of Chance before it went silent show the Martian sky to darken, until the sun disappears out of sight.

Scientists measure the amount of sunlight-blocking haze in the Martian atmosphere as “tau” with the current tau on the Curiosity of the Gale Crater on the site of the reach of above 8.0, JPL officials said in the NASA statement. The last tau for the Occasion, the site was about 11. The atmosphere is so thick with dust, “accurate measurements are not possible for Mars’ oldest active rover.”

According to NASA, 2018 sandstorm is not as big as the 2007 dust storm that Opportunity has survived 11 years ago. It is more similar to a dust storm as seen by the Viking 1 lander in 1977. Recent dust storms seen by NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft from 1971 to 1972, as well as by the Mars Global Surveyor in 2001, were also much larger. During that storm, only the highest volcanoes on Mars were visible stitches above the fabric.

“The current dust storm is more scattered and fragmentary; it is anyone’s guess how it will develop further, but it shows no sign of clearing up,” NASA officials wrote in the second update.

NASA scientists are maintaining a full-court press on the Martian dust storm. In addition to Curiosity is weather observations at the surface, NASA has several other spacecraft tracking of the storm of the orbit: the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) the study of the atmosphere. The European Space Agency also has two spacecraft in orbit (Mars Express and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter). India’s Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft is in orbit.

An important question for scientists is why some dust storms on Mars to be a planet-enshrouding events and the last few months, while others disappear in a week.

“We don’t have a good idea,” Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in the statement. Guzewich leads the Rover’s dust storm work.

New photographs from Curiosity show a wall of mist over Gale Crater, which is up to eight times thicker than normal for the time on Mars, NASA officials said. The one photo also shows a remarkable lack of shade. That is because the whole sky on Mars is red, and the illumination of the rocks from all sides, NASA officials explained.

While the dust storm will not affect Curiosity, the ability, the low-light conditions, allowing the rover to take longer exposures when these photos of the NASA officials said. If Curiosity is not the taking of photos, the rover rotates the mast-mounted Mastcam camera on the face of the ground, to protect it against dust blows, they will be added.

You can get updates about the dust storm, and the Chance of status on NASA’s Mars Storm Watch page.

Original article on Space.com.

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