A massive dust storm reportedly has taken the whole Red Planet into its powerful grips. As revealed by the United States space agency NASA on Wednesday 20th June, the dust clouds on Mars tend to reach up to a height of forty miles.
As per the reports of NASA, this huge dust storm has compelled the solar-powered NASA rover Opportunity to cease its activity since the past one week. As the dust storm obscures the sun, its rays fail to reach the solar panels of the Opportunity making it difficult to function. The Opportunity has reportedly gone off to sleep to save its battery power as its panels are incapable of recharging the batteries.
Another Martian rover of NASA, known as Curiosity, has not been yet affected by this dust storm as, unlike the Opportunity rover, it is nuclear powered. The scientists at NASA expect that the Curiosity rover would help them to understand the reason as to why some of the dust storms on the Red Planet last till months and tend to grow increasingly bigger while the others are very insignificant and last only till a week.
The atmospheric scientist of NASA, Scott Guzewich of the Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement, “We don’t have any good idea.” Since the year 2007, the dust storms on the Red Planet have been the biggest.
The occurrence of dust storms on the Red Planet is not new. Such type of storms occurs on Mars generally at the time of Spring and Summer season of the planet when Mars is at a close proximity to our Sun. As said by NASA, with the atmosphere getting gradually warmer, the winds produced at various regions tend to mobilize the dust particles that resemble the grains of the talcum powder in size.
The dust storms occurring on the Red Planet usually tend to remain confined to a single region on Mars. However, as said by Guzewich, this present dust storm has the ability to cover a region bigger than Russia and North America taken together.
Scientists at NASA are engaged in the process of tracking the occurrence of storms on the Red Planet for a long time now. At times the dust storms there are so strong that they could be viewed through telescopes on the Earth.