NASA Rover Tracks Big Dust Storm on Mars
A NASA spacecraft is keeping tabs on a vast dust storm on Mars that has spawned changes in the Martian atmosphere felt by two rovers on the planet’s surface.
The Martian dust storm was first spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on Nov. 10 and has been tracked ever since. The agency’s Mars rover Opportunity has seen a slight drop in atmospheric clarity due to the storm. Meanwhile the newer Curiosity rover — which has a built-in weather station — has seen a drop in air pressure and slightly increased nighttime temperatures halfway around the planet from Opportunity, NASA officials said.
“This is now a regional dust storm,” Rich Zurek, NASA’s chief Mars scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement Wednesday. “It has covered a fairly extensive region with its dust haze and it is in a part of the planet were some regional storms have grown into global dust hazes.”
NASA is combining observations by the Curiosity rover and MRO to create a complete picture of the Martian dust storm. The Spain-built Rover Environmental Monitoring Station on Curiosity gives scientists a real-time look at conditions over the rover’s position inside Gale Crater.