The storm that has covered part of the Red Planet has recently covered all of it, making the sky dusty and turning the day into night.
According to the latest updates from NASA officials, the sandstorm is now a global weather event on Mars:
“The Martian dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a ‘planet-encircling’ (or ‘global’) dust event.”
The storm made NASA’s Opportunity rover go offline because of the missing sunlight. Curiosity is nuclear-powered and can keep on snapping photos or work under the dark Martian sky. At the moment, the rovers are on opposite sides of the Red Planet.
Last week is when NASA had contact with Opportunity when they were waiting for its check-in call on June 12. The engineers believe that the rover is now in a hibernation state – in low-power mode. It will only wake up to see if the batteries are recharged for a ‘phone call’ towards our planet.
NASA officials wrote an update on 20 June, explaining the situation:
“A recent analysis of the rover’s long-term survivability in Mars’ extreme cold suggests Opportunity’s electronics and batteries can stay warm enough to function. Regardless, the project doesn’t expect to hear back from Opportunity until the skies begin to clear over the rover. That doesn’t stop them from listening for the rover every day.”
The Thick Sand Storm Darkens Mars
As for Curiosity, it has kept NASA officials up to date with selfies and with photos of the dust storm approaching and getting thicker by day. It seems that this haze is eight times thicker than normal, covering the planet in darkness, and making Curiosity rover’s camera work more in the lack of proper lighting. The camera has to take longer exposures when it takes photos.
The two images show the lighting conditions that changed before and during the storm. On the left, the image was taken on 21 May, while the right one is from June 17. The image is this red because of the high concentration of dust in the air and the long exposure that the camera needs to take the photos in low-light conditions.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere