The dust storm, which erupted during the last week of June 2007, is affecting operations for all five spacecraft operating at Mars. The fleet includes two NASA rovers on the ground (Spirit and Opportunity), plus three orbiters, two of which belong to NASA (Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) and one to the European Space Agency (Mars Express).
Beginning in Mars' heavily cratered southern highlands, the dust storm took roughly a week to grow large enough to encircle the planet. Dust has now drifted into the northern hemisphere as well.
"This is the favorable time of the Martian year for dust storms," says Joshua Bandfield, research associate at the Mars Space Flight Facility. The facility is part of the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
"It's summer in the southern hemisphere," he says, "That's when Mars lies closest to the sun and solar heating is greatest."
Bandfield adds, "We can watch weather fronts spreading and kicking up dust in a big way." He explains that as winds sweep dust into the atmosphere, the atmosphere becomes warmer. This adds to the storm's power, helping it to pick up more dust. But the process has a built-in limitation, he says. "When the dust becomes thick enough, it reflects more sunlight from the atmosphere, allowing the air near the surface to cool."
As seen from orbit, the dust storm has the effect of veiling surface features – or even concealing them completely, which hasn't happened yet in this event. "This storm isn't as big or severe as the one in 2001," Bandfield says. "THEMIS and other orbiters can still see the surface, despite the continuing dust activity."
From the ground, the dust in the air has cut the amount of sunlight reaching the rovers' solar panels and reducing their electrical power. "If you were standing there, you'd see the sky looking tawny with haze," explains Bandfield. "The sun would appear as a sharp-edged disk, but the light level would be noticeably lower than what you would see under a totally clear sky."
Luckily, say scientists, summer is a time when the rovers can best survive under reduced power. If the storm had struck during local winter, the rovers might not get enough power during the day to stay alive through the cold Martian night.
How long will this storm last" No one knows for sure, but Bandfield notes its effects won't disappear as quickly as the storm erupted. "Mars," he says, "will remain dusty for at least a couple months more."
Robert Burnham | EurekAlert!
Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte
17.08.2018 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)
Protecting the power grid: Advanced plasma switch for more efficient transmission
17.08.2018 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference
Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
17.08.2018 | Event News
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2018 | Information Technology
17.08.2018 | Life Sciences