Mars Dust Storm Likely Not Going Global

Article written: 28 Nov , 2012
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

A regional dust storm visible in the southern hemisphere of Mars in this nearly global mosaic of observations made by the Mars Color Imager on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 25, 2012, has contracted from its size a week earlier. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Good news for the spacecraft sitting on or orbiting Mars: a dust storm on the Red Planet that looked as though it could spread around the entire planet now appears to be abating rather than going global, NASA says.

“During the past week, the regional storm weakened and contracted significantly,” said Bruce Cantor of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. Cantor uses the Mars Color Imager camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to monitor storms on the Red Planet.

Recent images and data from the Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on the Curiosity rover have also shown a hazy atmosphere and air pressure changes in the vicinity of Gale Crater.

Part of gigantic panorama from Curiosity, showing an increasingly hazy view off in the distance, likely because of a dust storm. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSS, with image editing by Stuart Atkinson. See the full panorama here.

“We are getting lots of good data about this storm,” said Mark Richardson of Ashima Research, Pasadena, California, a co-investigator both on REMS and on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Mars Climate Sounder instrument, which has been detecting widespread effects of the current storm on atmospheric temperatures.

Here’s a look at the growing dust storm from the Mars Color Imager on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 18, 2012 to compare with the lead image:


Researchers anticipate that the unprecedented combination of a near-equatorial weather station at ground level, and daily orbital observations during Mars’ dust-storm season, may provide information about why some dust storms grow larger than others.

This is good information to have for any potential future human visitors to Mars.

Source: JPL

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3 Responses

  1. Member
    Aqua4U says

    It’s just the start of the ‘dust storm season’ on Mars… a sign of things to come?

  2. Harry says

    Hey Nancy,

    It would be very sad if a sandstorm goes global on Mars… it could last years and we would likely loose our probes on the surface.

    See my Telescope


  3. JonHanford says

    Glad to read that this storm isn’t going global. I remember a several month delay in imaging by Mariner 9 (the first probe to orbit another planet, BTW) due to a global dust storm when it arrived in Mars orbit in November 1971. A very frustrating time for those back on Earth following the mission!

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