Dust storm on Mars fades, but the Rover “opportunity” is silent

Dust storms on Mars is quite a common occurrence. They usually happen when in the southern hemisphere of the red planet summer begins. And although they may begin very suddenly, they last, usually not more than a few weeks, creating a weather collapse only in a certain area. But sometimes a Martian dust storms can become a real global phenomenon.

One of these dust storms began in may of this year, in a region called Arabia Terra, and then quickly (within a few weeks) turned into a planetary problem, covering the whole territory of Mars. Most went to Mars Rover “opportunity”, which is located in the “Valley of perseverance” (Perseverance Valley). Raised in the atmosphere of the planet dust is almost completely closed from the Rover sunlight, forcing him to go to sleep. According to the forecasts of meteorologists space Agency NASA, the dust storm should be completed in the coming weeks, but “opportunity” is still no news.

Scientists program the Mars Exploration Program, responsible for the operation of Mars Rovers “, Opportunity” and “Curiosity”, the three Mars orbiters (Mars Odyssey, MRO and MAVEN) mission and the lander InSight, which should land Mars within 109 days, shared the latest data about the current situation.

So, according to the latest information, the Martian dust storm starts to subside, but it will take a few weeks or months to the skies of the red planet has become quite transparent that “opportunity” was able to emerge from hibernation and continue your work.

As mentioned above, dust storms of Mars – the phenomenon seasonal. They occur when the southern hemisphere summer is coming – a time when Mars is closer to the Sun. With increasing temperature the particles of dust rise higher in the atmosphere, creating more wind. As a result, it raises up even more dust, creating a natural cycle, the mechanism of which NASA is still trying to understand.

Because the Antarctic region in summer, facing the Sun, the frozen carbon dioxide contained in the polar cap begins to evaporate. This leads to compaction of the atmosphere and increases to atmospheric pressure, which helps reduce the amount of emitted dust in the air, but at the same time is already contained in the atmosphere of dust to settle down. As noted in NASA, in some cases, dust clouds on Mars can rise to a height of 60 kilometers.

However, global dust storms are relatively rare. These events happen 3-4 times in the Martian year (approximately 6-8 earth years). Such large-scale atmospheric phenomena observed, for example, in 1971 (during missions “Mariner-9 and Viking-1”) and in 2001 (mission Mars Global Surveyor). In 2007 too there was a big storm that closed the sky over the “opportunity” and deprived of the ability to fulfil the tasks of the Rover, minimizing his activity. But this year it was much worse. The storm was so strong and dense that it significantly increased the level of atmospheric opacity of the planet. In fact, the storm created over the location of the Rover continued overnight, forcing the scientific Rover team to suspend all operations.

The main problem is that “opportunity”, as opposed to the more contemporary “Curiosity”, powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator relies solely on the electricity that it obtains by collecting solar energy. Moreover, the long duration dust storm creates a problem for the operation of the heaters, the Rover that protect its battery from extreme cold of the Martian atmosphere.

According to the latest data, the volume raised in an atmosphere of dust begins to decline. This means that the storm came to its final phase and go into decline. Using instruments Mars Color Imager (MARCI) and Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) Martian orbital station Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) experts from NASA also noted the superficial signs of change in the weather, and the lack of further increase in temperature in the middle atmosphere of Mars, which speaks of a smaller heating of the contained dust sunlight.

In another part of the planet and the Curiosity Rover also noted the decrease in the level of dust over himself. For “opportunity” is definitely good news. And yet scientists believe that to restore the communication with the Rover will only few weeks or even months when the Rover’s solar panels can receive sufficient amount of energy. The last time the marched out on bond June 10.

Scientists have no doubt that “opportunity” and this time will be able to survive such a strong sandstorm. Sure makes the fact that the device was originally designed for 90 day missions, but are working on the red planet for more than 14 years.

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