NASA this week announced that a dust storm on Mars appears to be dissipating, instead of growing into a global storm. The dust storm has been tracked since November 10 using the Mars Color Imager camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
“During the past week, the regional storm weakened and contracted significantly,” said Bruce Cantor of Malin Space Science Systems, a NASA contractor that operates space camera systems, including the Mars Color Imager.
The week before, the storm had grown large enough for NASA to label it a “regional” storm. The changes the storm had on Mars’ global air-pressure patterns were extensive enough that Mars rover Curiosity‘s Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) detected them on the red planet’s surface. The storm also came within 837 miles of Mars rover Opportunity, which saw the atmospheric clarity above it lower slightly.
In edition to the measurements taken by the Curiosity’s REMS, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Mars Climate Sounder has also been detecting the effects of the dust storm on atmospheric temperatures. Researchers hope to be able to use the REMS, which is located near Mars’ equator, and daily orbital observations to help them understand why some Martian dust storms dissipate, while others grow to a global scale. Two dust storms – one in 2001 and one in 2007 – have been observed growing into global hazes.
(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)