Our planet has seen a number of pretty devastating dust storms in the history, however, not even one of the storms could envelop the entire planet since it would require a great amount of momentum and extremely unusual weather conditions to even initiate such a colossal dust storm. On the other hand, our neighbor planet Mars or the red planet, as it is affectionately known, is prone to such weather events where even tiny storms merge together to form a giant dust storm.
Every six to eight years, the atmosphere of the red planet facilitate the formation of small dust storms that merge together to form giant dust storms that can even envelope the whole planet. In fact, such an extremely large storm has currently engulfed Mars under its thick cover of haze formed due to the displacement of the enormous quantity of dust. The dust storm formed several weeks ago and has since grown to its enormous extremity thereby engulfing the entire planet.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) recently photos of the dust storm that depicts the extremity of the dust storm today when compared to a photo send a few weeks ago. MRO is orbiting Mars collecting valuable data in order to understand how these storms are born and grow and NASA is analyzing the data to assess the progress of the storm via its ground-based rovers.
Last month, Opportunity Mars rover that works on solar power, was turned off in order to preserve the batteries so that it can communicate with the ground control on Earth when required. Since the dust storm has veiled and blotted the sun, it cannot generate solar power in order to power its components. The storm is expected to last for a few months now and might subside somewhere around September after which, NASA will be able to assess the situation of Opportunity if it can revive it or not since there is a chance that the rover could lose control with the ground control. Also, it might not be able to recharge itself after the dust storm since dust will eventually settle on its solar panels disrupting its ability to generate power.
Luckily NASA’s Curiosity rover that uses nuclear power is scanning the storm and the surface of the red planet and has been communicating with the ground control transmitting the data gathered from the inner part of the storm. The rover uses its Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) to trace the surface temperature, the change in the atmospheric temperature as well as the amount of dust in the atmosphere so that scientists can evaluate and analyze the data further.
Rich Zurek of NASA’s JPL stated how remarkable it is to see how a local storm the size less than a small U.S. state could trigger itself to wipe away dust and resulting in turning the Martian atmosphere into a thick layer of haze that encompasses the entire planet. Researchers are scrutinizing the mysterious behind dust storms on Mars such as how these colossal dust storms are formed and how it could explain the reason behind what happened to the plentiful water that was once on the planet.
Researchers believe that Mars was indeed covered with an insulating that atmosphere similar to the Earth that allowed the water to flow in liquid form on the surface. However, dust storms are known to raise water vapors high up in the atmosphere where the sunlight could break it down into hydrogen atoms which then escapes into space because of the solar wind. Analysing the dust storms developed on the Mars could answer several mysterious which is yet to be solved before humans could ever step on the planet which is regarded as the second planet the earthlings could escape to one day