Science

Mars Dust Storm Now ‘Planet-Encircling,’ Dimming Hopes For NASA Rover

Mars Dust Storm Now ‘Planet-Encircling,’ Dimming Hopes For NASA Rover”

But none of that takes away the opportunity for our science to uncover mysteries of the red planet, as the other rover named Curiosity is still in works.

Without sunlight, the solar-powered Opportunity can only hunker down and wait for the sky to clear.

The game, in its essence, is not offering very complex gameplay or quests, or anything like that, but its most significant advantage is that the gamers can drive on Mars, virtually, in a very close-to-reality recreation of the Red Planet. In addition to Curiosity's weather observations on the surface, NASA has several other spacecraft tracking the storm from orbit: the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and MAVEN orbiter studying the Martian atmosphere. At the time, the dust storm covered one-fourth of Mars. By the first week it took the size of North America, then "quickly doubled in size", and eventually continued growing. The storm's light-blocking factor, or "tau", has grown to over 8.0 above Gale Crater (where Curiosity is now rovering about) - the highest value the bot has ever recorded during its mission.

Dust storms on Mars are actually quite commonplace.

A self-portrait taken by NASA's Curiosity rover taken June 15. Earth's gravitational pull is nearly double that of Mars, which helps settle the dust.

Though they are common, Martian dust storms typically stay contained to a local area.

The US space agency also added that the Mars Curiosity Rover used its Mast Camera also known as the Mastcam this month in order to snap pictures of the intensifying haziness on the surface of Mars which has been caused by the massive dust storm of tiny particles. Opportunity has "long-term survivability" even in the cold temperatures of Mars and can stay warm enough to function later on, NASA said. During that 2007 Martian dust storm, NASA also lost contact with Opportunity for days due to low power levels from the lack of sunlight.

Scientists measure the amount of sunlight-blocking haze in the Martian atmosphere as "tau", with the current tau at Curiosity's Gale Crater site reaching above 8.0, JPL officials said in the NASA statement. The tau reading is over 11 where Opportunity is hunkered down. The atmosphere is so thick with dust, "accurate measurements are no longer possible for Mars' oldest active rover". Instead, he made a decision to explore space on his own by creating a video game that allows people to drive around the Red Planet's actual terrain in a souped-up rover.

But researchers hope data gathered on the current dust storm will help predict similar events in the future.

Scientists first detected the dust storm May 30, and they do not know when it will abate.

"That would be like forecasting El Niño events on Earth, or the severity of upcoming hurricane seasons", he pointed out.



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