MRO Spots Mars Dust Storm in the Making

Wind whipping up a dust storm on Mars (NASA)
Wind whipping up a dust storm on Mars (NASA)

One of the overriding features in the Martian atmosphere is the troublesome dust storm. Sometimes, these storms can last months and can span the entire planet. As testified by the solar panels on rovers Spirit and Opportunity, dust storms block sunlight from passing through the atmosphere and can deposit a thick red layer over the robots, amplifying the dust storm’s damaging effects.

In the stunning image above, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured the dust being blown up from the Red Planet’s surface. In short, this is the source of a growing dust storm from a canyon system, injecting a huge amount of material into the skies…

Much like the active Martian avalanches captured by the MRO a few months ago, the robotic satellite has once again spotted an active geological process on Mars. What’s more, the MRO’s mission has been extended, so we can expect to see more dynamic features such as this in the future.

From the MRO website:

Like storm chasers on Earth, a NASA spacecraft spends time each day pursuing intense weather on Mars. Speeding along in orbit, it takes images of dust storms. Often, the storms are spiral like giant tornadoes on Earth. Sometimes they form huge fronts of churning dust like the “black blizzards” of the 1930s. The storms lift dust particles high into the atmosphere that serve as seeds for water-ice cloud formation. Water ice condenses onto the dust particles to form wispy, white clouds.

The results gained from the MRO will continue to enrich the science currently being carried out in Martian orbit and by the two rovers that continue to scout out the regolith…

For more, check out Nancy’s Universe Today article

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