These two views from NASA’s Curiosity rover, acquired specifically to measure the amount of dust inside Gale Crater, show that dust has increased over three days from a major Martian dust storm. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.
NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater.
“This is the ideal storm for Mars science,” says Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “We have a historic number of spacecraft operating at the Red Planet. Each offers a unique look at how dust storms form and behave – knowledge that will be essential for future robotic and human missions.”
Dust storms are a frequent feature on Mars, occurring in all seasons. Occasionally, they can balloon into regional storms in a matter of days, and ...