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Scientists are Keeping an Eye on a Martian Dust Storm

Article written: 12 Jul , 2007
Updated: 26 Dec , 2015
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From time to time, dust storms get going on Mars that can severely limit our view of the Red Planet, and the ability of the Mars Rovers to generate power. There’s a storm on Mars right now that NASA scientists are watching carefully to see how it affects the fleet of spacecraft on and around the Red Planet.

This latest storm got rolling during the last week in June in the planet’s cratered southern highlands. Over the course of a week, it grew large enough to encircle the entire planet. And now dust is drifting up into the northern hemisphere as well. As the winds sweep dust into the atmosphere, it gets warmer, adding to the storm’s power and helping it to pick up more dust.

When the dust gets thick enough, it reflects sunlight away from the surface. This cools the storm and causes it to settle down.

For the NASA spacecraft currently at Mars, this current storm is stealing some of their power. Fortunately, it’s currently summer for the Mars rovers, so they’re experiencing this dimming during the peak of their energy generation.

The storm will likely last a few months more, and then the atmosphere will clear up again.

Original Source:ASU News Release


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