NASA Curiosity rover reports vast dust storm Mars

Curiosity rover reports vast dust storm on Mars

5:38 AM, 27th November 2012
Curiosity rover reports vast dust storm on Mars
Spacecraft monitoring martian dust storm.


WASHINGTON DC, US: A NASA spacecraft is keeping tabs on a vast dust storm on Mars that has spawned changes in the Martian atmosphere felt by Curiosity rover on the Red planet’s surface. The Martian dust storm was first spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on 10 November and has been tracked ever since.

The storm came no closer than about 1,347 kilometre from Opportunity, resulting in only a slight drop in atmospheric clarity over that rover, which does not have a weather station. Halfway around the planet from Opportunity, the NASA Mars rover Curiosity’s weather station has detected atmospheric changes related to the storm. Sensors on the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), which was provided for Curiosity by Spain, have measured decreased air pressure and a slight rise in overnight low temperature.

“This is now a regional dust storm. It has covered a fairly extensive region with its dust haze, and it is in a part of the planet where some regional storms in the past have grown into global dust hazes. For the first time since the Viking missions of the 1970s, we are studying a regional dust storm both from orbit and with a weather station on the surface,” said Rich Zurek, Chief Mars Scientist, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“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,” said Zurek.

The Mars Climate Sounder instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected a warming of the atmosphere at about 25 kilometre above the storm. Since then, the atmosphere in the region has warmed by about 25 degrees Celsius. This is due to the dust absorbing sunlight at that height, so it indicates the dust is being lofted well above the surface and the winds are starting to create a dust haze over a broad region.

© PTI News 




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