Archive for the ‘Martian dust storm’ Tag

Global Martian Dust Storm   14 comments

The View from Insight! 🙂

It’s pretty packed here on the Mars Insight Probe and there’s nothing much to see outside right now… so we’ve been watching live streams of the dust storm taking over Mars to pass the time…Not very impressed with the view there right now either! 😉

BoardingPass_MyNameOnInSight

The Martian dust storm that has been engulfing the red planet for the last two weeks or so has now ballooned into full-blown global dust event magnitudes (officially known as a “planet-encircling” dust event.) as of 20th June. The atmospheric dust-haze now surrounding Mars and blocking out the sunlight as it covers the sky, is in the region of six to eight times greater than its seasonally normal density. In the absence of sunlight dusty red Mars has taken on a weirdly spooky-shadowless appearance.

Mars 2Poor little “Oppy” (NASA’s Opportunity rover) has been somewhat swamped, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the Martian dust storm has diminished the sunlight it relies on for power, to such an extent (like completely obliterated it) that “Oppy” has been compelled to postpone all of its science activities until further notice. Without enough available power from its solar panels Oppy could not even “call home,” and NASA and Oppy lost contact altogether on 12th June 2018.

Mars 3Over on a different part of the planet at the infamous Gale Crater, Curiosity (NASA’s Curiosity rover), which has been hard at work studying the Martian soil in the region, has fared considerably better and it isn’t anticipated to be unduly bothered by the dust. Despite the antics of the Martian dust storm diminishing both sunlight and visibility in Gale Crater, Curiosity, who arrived on Mars five years after the last Martian dust storm of this nature, in 2007, has the edge over “Oppy” because it sports a nuclear-powered battery running 24/7 and doesn’t therefore have power issues to sweat over, unlike “Oppy”.

MarsThe offending dusty haze floating around the Martian atmosphere, resulting from the storm which is blocking out the sunlight, is known as “tau.” This tau level is at an all-time high rising tau level 8.0 at Curiosity’s location in Gale Crater. No higher tau has ever been recorded by the mission. The area close to Oppy’s location last measured a tau of almost level 11, and at such a high dust intensity it rendered impossible the job of Oppy – the longest working Mars rover, to provide any kind of precise measurements.  

Of course we experience dust storms of our own here on Earth. They occur  in the desert regions of, for example, the Middle East, North Africa and some southwest regions of the USA . However, thanks to our thicker atmosphere and its structural design along with the stronger gravity of Earth than on Mars, the dust is compelled to settle rather than floating around the atmosphere, as on Mars.  Our planet also benefits from the presence of land-growing vegetation.

Mars 4Usually dust storms occurring on Mars are confined locally.  This current storm is distinctive in that it covers an area the equivalent of the combination of Earth’s N America and Russia.  On a positive note it is a great opportunity to gain a more advanced knowledge of the way in which these Martian storms occur, progress and ultimately influence the red planet.

In the meantime Wolfie is passing the time chomping through stray pieces of liver cake floating past, posing for selfies and eyeing up the strange Manor-like building drifting randomly past the windows…. 🙂

Sources:

www.nasa.gov

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

www.space.com

www.astronomy.com