Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Giant Martian Dust Storm Threatens Two Rovers

Date:
August 30, 2007
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
The mighty Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity continue to persevere in brutal conditions, as revealed in images of the sun they are sending home. The images show how opaque the Martian atmosphere has been in the face of a raging, two-month dust storm. To understand the gravity of the storm, engineers and astronomers monitor the situation by examining the images of the sun and measuring the amount of dust or the opacity of the atmosphere.

Photos of the sun taken by the rover Opportunity show how dusty the Martian atmosphere is on various days this summer.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Planetary Society

The mighty Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity continue to persevere in brutal conditions, as revealed in images of the sun they are sending home. The images show how opaque the Martian atmosphere has been in the face of a raging, two-month dust storm.

To understand the gravity of the storm, engineers and astronomers monitor the situation by examining the images of the sun and measuring the amount of dust or the opacity of the atmosphere.

Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society assembled the mosaic of images, which were taken daily by the panoramic cameras (Pancams) on both rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. The images were calibrated by students in Cornell's MarsLab image-processing facility and made available through collaboration with Jim Bell, Cornell professor of astronomy and the principal investigator on the rovers' Pancam imaging team.

"Emily's mosaics are quite remarkable. They show a rover's-eye view of the storm getting worse, and this little light bulb we call the sun getting dimmer and dimmer and dimmer as the dust clouds built up," said Bell.

Since June, a massive dust storm has engulfed much of the Martian surface. The storm has put the rovers in danger, as they depend upon solar power to run during the day and to survive the harsh, cold Martian nights. As dust clouds block the sunlight and dust settles on the solar panels, the rovers' energy is depleted. Only wind can remove the dust, Bell said.

For the rover Spirit, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., reports that even though the Martian sky above Gusev Crater is clearing, solar power levels remained fairly low and constant dust now appears to be accumulating on the solar panels. Between sol -- a Martian day -- 1283 (Aug. 12) and sol 1286 (Aug. 16), the atmosphere cleared by about 35 percent, leading to daily energy levels of about 300 watt-hours (the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for three hours). Typical levels before the dust storms were around 700 to 900 watt-hours for the rovers.

On the other side of Mars, Opportunity, now waiting to enter Victoria Crater from the rim, is currently experiencing its lowest power levels to date. The sky was so dark in mid-July that less than 200 watt-hours of daily energy was available, according to JPL. But skies are slowly clearing, offering hope that the rover will be ready for a descent into the crater soon. Opportunity benefited from wind blowing some dust off solar panels on Aug. 22. Under gradually clearing skies, Opportunity's solar panels were producing about 300 watt hours daily by Aug. 24.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Giant Martian Dust Storm Threatens Two Rovers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070829181924.htm>.
Cornell University. (2007, August 30). Giant Martian Dust Storm Threatens Two Rovers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070829181924.htm
Cornell University. "Giant Martian Dust Storm Threatens Two Rovers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070829181924.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
45 Years Later, Buzz Aldrin on Walking on Moon

45 Years Later, Buzz Aldrin on Walking on Moon

AP (July 18, 2014) Forty-five years ago Sunday, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon. Speaking at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Aldrin described what he was thinking right before the historic walk. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Orbital Cargo Ship Reaches International Space Station

Orbital Cargo Ship Reaches International Space Station

AFP (July 16, 2014) Orbital Sciences Corporation's unmanned cargo ship arrived Wednesday at the International Space Station carrying a load of food and equipment for the six-man crew at the research outpost. Duration: 00:33 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins