Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
  Mars Exploration News  




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















Arizona State Scientists Keep An Eye On Martian Dust Storm

Mars dust map images are available here. At infrared wavelengths, the smallest details THEMIS can see on the surface are 330 feet (100 meters) wide. Philip Christensen, Regents' Professor of geological sciences in ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, is director of the Mars Space Flight Facility, and both designer and principal investigator for the THEMIS instrument.
by Staff Writers
Tempe AZ (SPX) Jul 13, 2007
Scientists at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Center are using the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter to monitor a large dust storm on the Red Planet. The instrument, a multi-wavelength camera sensitive to five visible wavelengths and 10 infrared ones, is providing Mars scientists and spacecraft controllers with global maps that track how much atmospheric dust is obscuring the planet.

The dust storm, which erupted during the last week of June 2007, is affecting operations for all five spacecraft operating at Mars. The fleet includes two NASA rovers on the ground (Spirit and Opportunity), plus three orbiters, two of which belong to NASA (Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) and one to the European Space Agency (Mars Express).

Beginning in Mars' heavily cratered southern highlands, the dust storm took roughly a week to grow large enough to encircle the planet. Dust has now drifted into the northern hemisphere as well.

"This is the favorable time of the Martian year for dust storms," says Joshua Bandfield, research associate at the Mars Space Flight Facility. The facility is part of the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"It's summer in the southern hemisphere," he says, "That's when Mars lies closest to the sun and solar heating is greatest."

Bandfield adds, "We can watch weather fronts spreading and kicking up dust in a big way." He explains that as winds sweep dust into the atmosphere, the atmosphere becomes warmer. This adds to the storm's power, helping it to pick up more dust. But the process has a built-in limitation, he says.

"When the dust becomes thick enough, it reflects more sunlight from the atmosphere, allowing the air near the surface to cool."

As seen from orbit, the dust storm has the effect of veiling surface features - or even concealing them completely, which hasn't happened yet in this event. "This storm isn't as big or severe as the one in 2001," Bandfield says. "THEMIS and other orbiters can still see the surface, despite the continuing dust activity."

From the ground, the dust in the air has cut the amount of sunlight reaching the rovers' solar panels and reducing their electrical power. "If you were standing there, you'd see the sky looking tawny with haze," explains Bandfield.

"The sun would appear as a sharp-edged disk, but the light level would be noticeably lower than what you would see under a totally clear sky."

Luckily, say scientists, summer is a time when the rovers can best survive under reduced power. If the storm had struck during local winter, the rovers might not get enough power during the day to stay alive through the cold Martian night.

How long will this storm last" No one knows for sure, but Bandfield notes its effects won't disappear as quickly as the storm erupted. "Mars," he says, "will remain dusty for at least a couple months more."

Community
Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more



Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


NASA Readies Mars Lander For August Launch To Icy Site
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 10, 2007
NASA's next Mars mission will look beneath a frigid arctic landscape for conditions favorable to past or present life. Instead of roving to hills or craters, NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander will claw down into the icy soil of the Red Planet's northern plains. The robot will investigate whether frozen water near the Martian surface might periodically melt enough to sustain a livable environment for microbes. To accomplish that and other key goals, Phoenix will carry a set of advanced research tools never before used on Mars.









  • Could NASA Get To Pluto Faster? Space Expert Says Yes - By Thinking Nuclear
  • NASA plans to send new robot to Jupiter
  • Los Alamos Hopes To Lead New Era Of Nuclear Space Tranportion With Jovian Mission
  • Boeing Selects Leader for Nuclear Space Systems Program

  • Northrop Grumman Helps NASA Shape Plans For Affordable Lunar Lander
  • Summer Moon Illusion
  • NASA Plans New Era Of Suitcase Sized Lunar Science
  • X PRIZE Announces Competitors For Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge

  • First Malaysian Astronaut To Take Off For Space Station October 10
  • Wyle To Prepare First Passengers For Virgin Galactic Maiden Spaceflight
  • Russia Launches Genesis 2 On Converted SS-18 ICBM Launcher
  • NASA Selects Reynolds To Design Emergency Egress System For Orion Astronauts

  • New Horizons Slips Into Electronic Slumber
  • Nap Before You Sleep For Your Cruise Into The Abyss Of Outer Sol
  • The Dwarf Planet Known As Eris Is More Massive Than Pluto
  • Full Set Of Jupiter Close-Approach Data Reaches Home

  • Hubble Catches Jupiter Changing Its Stripes
  • Fantastic Flyby
  • Pluto-Bound New Horizons Provides New Look At Jupiter System
  • Two Moons Meet Over Jupiter

  • Messenger Flies By Venus And Snaps Some Nice Pixs
  • Venus Express And MESSENGER To Look At Venus In Tandem
  • Ground-Based Observatories Join Forces With Venus Express
  • Venus Express' Infrared Camera Goes Filming

  • Ring Herding
  • Cassini Scientists Wring Out The Details On Spongy Hyperion
  • Next Titan Flyby June 29
  • Cassini Finds Saturn Moons Are Active

  • DuPont And NASA To Develop Kevlar Reinforced Insulation For Next Gen Space Vehicles
  • NASA Harnesses Power Of Virtual Worlds For Exploration And Outreach
  • Stardust And Deep Impact Get New Assignments Cruising About Sol
  • Warner Goes Digital To Bring New Life To Films

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement