One of the massive dust storms ever seen on Mars weakened somewhat last week, but it's not over yet. It could take weeks or even months to see the clear sky.
As of Monday, July 23, more dust will be dropped into the thin air of the planet, and these changes have been observed by instruments aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
"Surface features in many areas are starting to re-emerge from orbit, which should even be visible through telescopes on the ground: Next week, Mars will give Earth its next access since 2003 – a particularly good time to observe the red Meanwhile, the nuclear-powered Mars Science Laboratory / Curiosity rover at Gale Crater has seen a drop in dust levels. "Researchers released an update to a NASA JPL blog on Thursday (July 26).
The Mars Dust Storm was the first discovered in late May and got worse in a few days. In mid-June, it was officially declared a dusty weather event. The unusually heavy dust storm blocked so much sunlight that the Mars Opportunity Rover had to stop the scientific operations. Without sunlight, the solar powered opportunity can not generate enough energy to keep warm. Another Rover Curiosity, powered by plutonium, was not directly affected by the storm.
Global dust storms like this are not surprising. In fact, they are a common feature on Mars, occurring in all seasons. They are more common during the southern hemisphere spring and summer, when the planet is closest to the sun along its elliptical orbit. Sunlight heats dust particles and lifts them higher into the atmosphere, which in turn generates more wind.
The recent dust storm is monitored by several satellites and NASA Curiosity Rover. Understanding how global storms form and develop is critical to future Mars missions.