Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spacecraft monitoring Martian dust storm

Date:
November 21, 2012
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
A Martian dust storm that NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been tracking since last week has also produced atmospheric changes detectable by rovers on Mars.

This nearly global mosaic of observations made by the Mars Color Imager on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 18, 2012, shows a dust storm in Mars' southern hemisphere. Small white arrows outline the area where dust from the storm is apparent in the atmosphere.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A Martian dust storm that NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been tracking since last week has also produced atmospheric changes detectable by rovers on Mars.

Related Articles


Using the orbiter's Mars Color Imager, Bruce Cantor of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, began observing the storm on Nov. 10, and subsequently reported it to the team operating NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The storm came no closer than about 837 miles (1,347 kilometers) from Opportunity, resulting in only a slight drop in atmospheric clarity over that rover, which does not have a weather station.

Halfway around the planet from Opportunity, the NASA Mars rover Curiosity's weather station has detected atmospheric changes related to the storm. Sensors on the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), which was provided for Curiosity by Spain, have measured decreased air pressure and a slight rise in overnight low temperature.

"This is now a regional dust storm. It has covered a fairly extensive region with its dust haze, and it is in a part of the planet where some regional storms in the past have grown into global dust hazes," said Rich Zurek, chief Mars scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "For the first time since the Viking missions of the 1970s, we are studying a regional dust storm both from orbit and with a weather station on the surface."

Curiosity's equatorial location and the sensors on REMS, together with the daily global coverage provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, provide new advantages compared with what Viking offered with its combination of orbiters and landers. The latest weekly Mars weather report from the orbiter's Mars Color Imager is at http://www.msss.com/msss_images/2012/11/21/ .

Each Martian year lasts about two Earth years. Regional dust storms expanded and affected vast areas of Mars in 2001 and 2007, but not between those years nor since 2007.

"One thing we want to learn is why do some Martian dust storms get to this size and stop growing, while others this size keep growing and go global," Zurek said.

From decades of observing Mars, scientists know there is a seasonal pattern to the largest Martian dust-storm events. The dust-storm season began just a few weeks ago, with the start of southern-hemisphere spring.

Starting on Nov. 16, the Mars Climate Sounder instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected a warming of the atmosphere at about 16 miles (25 kilometers) above the storm. Since then, the atmosphere in the region has warmed by about 45 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). This is due to the dust absorbing sunlight at that height, so it indicates the dust is being lofted well above the surface and the winds are starting to create a dust haze over a broad region.

Warmer temperatures are seen not only in the dustier atmosphere in the south, but also in a hot spot near northern polar latitudes due to changes in the atmospheric circulation. Similar changes affect the pressure measured by Curiosity even though the dust haze is still far away.

Besides the research value in better understanding storm behavior, monitoring the storm is also important for Mars rover operations. If the storm were to go global, the Opportunity rover would be affected most. More dust in the air or falling onto its solar panels would reduce the solar-powered rover's energy supply for daily operations. Curiosity is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, rather than solar cells. The main effects of increased dust in the air at its site would be haze in images and increased air temperature.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project and both of the Mars rover projects for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

For more information about the missions of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, visit http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/ .


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Spacecraft monitoring Martian dust storm." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121121180100.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2012, November 21). Spacecraft monitoring Martian dust storm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121121180100.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Spacecraft monitoring Martian dust storm." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121121180100.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) More than a year after NASA declared the Kepler spacecraft broken beyond repair, scientists have figured out how to continue getting useful data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 16, 2014) NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil, the latest hint that Mars was once suitable for microbial life. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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