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…
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Phoenix Descent Captured by HiRISE – A Breathtaking View

The Phoenix lander plus parachute, descending in front of a huge Mars crater (NASA/HiRISE)

Its images like these that restore your faith in mankind’s exploration spirit. After the flawless entry, descent and landing of Phoenix on Sunday night at 16:54 PST (00:54 GMT Monday morning), I took some time to contemplate the enormity of what the amazing team at NASA and the University of Arizona had achieved. I was a bit concerned as to whether the lander would make it through the “7 minutes of terror”, especially when thinking back to the silence that followed the UK’s Beagle 2 landing on Christmas Day, 2003. But it did make it, and with bags of confidence. Then we are flooded with news and images from the Red Planet, but one photo stood out from the rest. A photo, from an orbiting Mars satellite, looking down on Phoenix, floating through the Martian atmosphere, with a 10 km-wide crater as a backdrop. It doesn’t get much better than this…
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