In April 2018, the ESA Mars Express probe captured an incredible photograph of dust clouds on Mars near the planet's northern ice cap, just before a major dust storm hit the entire planet Planet sky darkened.
Source: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin / CC BY-SA 3.0 [Bild-Nr1
A massive dust storm hit Mars, and soon the storm had encircled the entire planet. But dust clouds are a common phenomenon on Mars; Before this storm, a minor storm has boosted the imposing feathers of this new photo taken in April by the European Space Agency (Mars) Mars Express. The photos show how powerful these clouds can become, with a thick cloud of dust near the northern ice cap of the planet.
Dust storms are most prevalent on Mars during the southern summer season. At this time, the planet is closer to the sun along the elliptical orbit, and the brightness increases the temperature differences on Mars that affect the air movement on the planet. These temperature differences allow Mars air to more easily lift dust particles on the surface, according to a statement by the ESA.
However, while a planet-covering dust storm sounds frightening, things on the surface are not so chaotic. This is because the windstorm speeds on Mars are usually less than half as fast as the hurricane winds on Earth. Because the atmospheric pressure on the Red Planet is so low, even fast winds would not harm anyone on Earth. "You would probably feel a breeze, but it would not knock you down," said Michael Smith, who works at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, previously to Space.com.
Mars Express has captured this cloud with a high stereo camera on board. The dust storm, which continues to rage on Mars, is mapped and monitored by five ESA and NASA orbiters, while NASA's rover continues to collect data on the red, dusty surface.