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Martian storm chasers: Spacecraft observe dust storm



 Mars Dust Storm

ESA's Mars Express captures this impressive image – near the north polar ice cap of Mars in April this year. Image and Caption credit: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin

A fleet of spacecraft are diligently studying the global dust storm currently encircling Mars.

The current dust storm started as a small regional event in early June. Mars has been around for the first time on Mars since 2007. With seven spacecraft actively observing, NASA's Opportunity rover is in a "safe mode" due to a lack of sunlight to charge its batteries. Four additional NASA spacecraft are observing the storm from the planet's surface and orbit. In addition, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express and E xoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and India's Mars Orbiter Mission ( Mangalyaan ) are also observing the ongoing storm.

Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan)


The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO.) Is a state-of-the-art organization dedicated to the development of different types of aircraft ) Mangalyaan may be collecting. The spacecraft is suite of instruments to examine the atmosphere. It is capable of gathering the surface and examining the composition of the planet's exosphere and how that might be changing during the storm.

Mars Express


ESA's Mars Express the storm. It is also equipped with a High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC).

The Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) is a web camera mounted to Mars Express that offers lower-resolution views of the planet. VMC on Wednesday (July 25) showed a substantial decrease in the coverage of atmospheric dust Valles Marineris

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ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter


As the name implies, the Trace Gas Orbiter is equipped to monitor the levels of trace gas compounds in the martian atmosphere. Specifically methane but also water vapor, nitrogen oxides, and acetylenes.

TGO is therefore monitoring six-monthly periodicity variations in the atmosphere's temperature and composition to help refine existing climate models.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter [19659009NASA'sMarsReconnaissanceOrbiter(MRO)hastwoprimaryinstrumentsthatareexaminingtheduststorm-theMarsColorImager(MARCI)andtheMarsClimateSounder(MCS)MARCImapstheentireplanetatmid-afternooneachdaytotrackthestorm'smotionandevolutiontofacilitatethecreationofplanet-wideweathermapsOpportunities and Curiosity mission teams to help plan activities around Mars' weather.

Similar to weather patterns on Earth, differences in temperature can drive small to large-scale shifts in wind patterns that impact the circulation of air in the atmosphere. Understanding when, where, and why air is falling and rising across different areas of the world

"The very fact that you start with something that's a storm Rich Zurek, the project scientist for MRO.

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Video [NASA]

Mars Odyssey Mars Odyssey's THEMIS instrument (Thermal Emission Imaging System) allows scientists to track the planet's surface and atmospheric temperature as well as the amount of dust in the atmosphere. The storms initial development, growth, and eventual dissipation.

"This is one of the largest weather events on Mars," since spacecraft observations started in the 1960s, said Michael Smith, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center at Greenbelt, MD who works on the THEMIS instrument.

"Every Mars year, during the dusty season, there are a lot of local or regional-scale storms that cover one area of ​​the planet "Smith said.

MAVEN


The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) arrived in orbit above Mars in 2014. It has been launched to investigate the history of the Martian atmosphere, which is believed to be in the early life of the planet.

Rather than studying the dust storm, the MAVEN team is looking to see how the dust storm impacts the upper atmosphere. 3.5 to 4.0 billion years ago based on recent observations by MAVEN. As the dust storm progresses, the spacecraft wants to investigate how dust storms the present-day loss of molecules from the upper reaches of the Martian atmosphere. These observations should help to refine modeling efforts of the atmosphere's evolution.

Curiosity


While scientists wait for Opportunity to reawaken, the Curiosity rover is weathering the storm as the only spacecraft observations observations from the surface.

"We're working double-duty right now, "said JPL's Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity's project scientist. "Our newly recommended drill is acquiring a fresh rock sample. But they are also using instruments to study the dust storm evolves. "

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), which can provide direct surface measurements of the storm. REMS provides daily measurements including atmospheric pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction, as well as air and ground temperature near the rover. In addition to visible-light cameras, the Mastcam, the spacecraft's ChemCam and the ultraviolet sensor on REMS can also be used to collect information on the abundance and size of dust particles.

 A self-portrait by NASA's Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover's location in Gale Crater. A self-portrait by NASA's Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A self-portrait by NASA's Curiosity rover taken on 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover's location in Gale Crater. "Duluth." Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS </p>
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<p> Another characteristic of global dust storms scientists are seeking to understand their own regularity. On average, global dust storms occur every three Martian years (5.5 Earth years). The current storm is over in that respect as the last global dust storm occurred in 2007 (11 Earth years ago). </p>
<p> Based on observations from the global dust storms in 2001 and 2007, scientists do not expect the ongoing storm to wind down until September. <em> InSight </em> mission in November. </p>
<p> Observations of the current dust storm should provide scientists with a wealth in the years ahead. </p>


<p class= Tagged: Curiosity Dust Storm ExoMars Lead Stories Mars Mars Express Mars Odyssey Mars Orbiter Mission Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter MAVEN Opportunity

Paul Knightly

Paul is currently a graduate student at Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Akransas at Fayetteville. He began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 2013. After completing a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering, he began his graduate studies in 2016 and is currently working on a PhD. He also participated in a 2-week simulation at The Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today. Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing on space science topics.


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