On Mars, dust storm season has commenced.
NASA’s distant satellite tv for pc, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, lately captured a sizable regional dust storm on the Purple Planet, encompassing the space the place the area company’s Perseverance rover is investigating the Martian surface. This space, a former river delta known as Jezero Crater, is proven by the white circle in the picture beneath.
The hazy storm additionally obscured Syrtis Main, a darkish volcanic space a whole lot of miles lengthy.
Dusty situations put a hitch in NASA’s plans to as soon as once more fly its expectation-exceeding Ingenuity helicopter (a part of the Perseverance mission). The air turned too dense, and inadequate daylight would have reached the little experimental chopper’s photo voltaic panels for a protected flight. (Flight 19 is now scheduled for no sooner than Jan. 23.)
“The presence of this storm got here fairly early – even earlier than the dusty season historically begins!” NASA wrote. “In reality, now we have by no means seen a storm of this energy so early in the Mars yr earlier than.”
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured a regional dust storm on Mars on Jan. 9, 2022.
Credit score: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS
Elsewhere on Mars, 1000’s of miles away, one other dust storm pressured NASA’s solar-powered InSight lander to power down into “safe mode” on Jan. 7. “In protected mode, a spacecraft suspends all however its important features,” defined NASA. When dust storms fully drain a Martian robotic’s batteries, engineers may not be capable to restart the machine. A mighty dust storm ended the legendary Alternative rover’s mission in 2018.
Happily, InSight, which is recording earthquakes on Mars amongst different geologic investigations, exited protected mode as the skies started to clear.
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Martian dust storms might be big, however they’re additionally regular. “Yearly there are some reasonably big dust storms that pop up on Mars and so they cowl continent-sized areas and final for weeks at a time,” explained Michael Smith, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard House Flight Heart.
Generally, these regional dust storms graduate to planet-encompassing monsters. These nice storms happen round each five-and-a-half years. It is an intense extraterrestrial occasion, and NASA’s Mars satellite tv for pc will watch the stormy scene from area.