Science

Opportunity hunkers down as dust storm descends over the intrepid little rover

Opportunity hunkers down as dust storm descends over the intrepid little rover”

Now that the area it is stationed in - the vast Martian plains of Meridiani Planum - is blanketed in this huge dust storm, the sunlight that Opportunity receives has diminished significantly. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and MAVEN orbiters all routinely support Opportunity's operations on the ground and communication back to Earth via the Deep Space Network.

The rover has proved hardier than expected by lasting almost 15 years, despite being designed for a 90-day mission.

On the same day when red-clad fans of the Washington Capitals hockey team - shouting "rock the red" - finally saw their long journey for a National Hockey league title come to fruition, scientists at NASA and elsewhere revealed a discovery on Mars that possibly moved them forward to one of their long time. seemingly unattainable quests.

As per a statement by NASA officials, they said that when they have spotted the storm, they notified the rover's team to get prepared for the contingency plans and in some days the storm has ballooned.

The swirling dust is impacting Opportunity's solar panels, which it uses to recharge its batteries and power the heaters that allow the rover to function in the extreme cold conditions of Mars.

NASA's Opportunity has been exploring Mars since 2004, but it functions on solar power. And over this past week, that "trouble" has been a Martian dust storm that's larger than the continent of North America, spanning 7 million square miles (18 million square kilometers) when it passed over Opportunity's current location in Mars' Perseverance Valley. The rover has already survived one other harsh dust storm in its past on Mars.

The space agency says the current storm has an opacity level of 10.8, and that 2007's severe dust storm had a 5.5.

By June 6, the power levels of Opportunity witnessed a major fall, compelling the rover to halt all science to save energy. It's not unlike running a vehicle in the winter so that the cold doesn't sap its battery charge. In many ways, Mars is like the Maltese Falcon of the movie with the same name: the stuff dreams are made of. Opportunity is in low power mode in order to make sure it can keep warm until the storm ends. Despite this, both rovers have vastly exceeded expectations: they were only created to last 90 days each. These storms actively lift dust high into the atmosphere which in turn blocks sunlight. The rover has been operated for more than 50 times longer than originally planned. The updrafts of dust can trigger more winds, triggering a feedback loop that fuels the birth of a dust storm.



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