NASA's Curiosity Rover Captured Martian Duststorm. Here's How It Looks

21 Juin, 2018, 16:21 | Auteur: Therese Cote

Nasa's Curiosity rover has beamed back pictures of a dust storm that has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted Nasa's Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, the U.S. space agency said today.

The last dust storm on Mars to go global occurred in 2007, five years before the Curiosity rover landed at its Gale Crater site, according officials with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The dust storm on Mars continues to grow.

However, there was still no signal from the Opportunity rover, although a recent analysis of the rover's long-term survivability in Mars' extreme cold suggests Opportunity's electronics and batteries can stay warm enough to function.

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 the NASA statement.

But Curiosity, along with spacecraft orbiting Mars, are now in an ideal position to send information about this progressing dust storm back to Guzewich and other NASA scientists.

It's unknown how long this dust storm will last, though previous Martian dust storms have persisted for weeks to months.

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In a press conference last week, NASA officials said they expect Opportunity will survive the dust storm.

In the meantime, NASA scientists are maintaining a full-court press the Martian dust storm. Curiosity, a car-sized rover, runs on nuclear energy.

"We don't have any good idea", Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said of these storms in a statement. At left is an image from Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) taken on May 21, 2018, before the storm.

Though Curiosity is on the other side of Mars from Opportunity, dust has steadily increased over it, more than doubling over the weekend.

Daily photos are being captured by the Curiosity rover's Mast Camera, or Mastcam, show the sky getting hazier. This sun-obstructing wall of haze is about six to eight times thicker than normal for this time of season.

You can get updates about the dust storm, and Opportunity's status, at NASA's Mars Storm Watch page.

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