Mars’ dust storms are labeled as one of the most massive Martian phenomena, and an event the broad public knows about. Sometimes, those storms are so powerful that covers the entire planet, and last year, it ended NASA’s Opportunity rover’s expedition earlier than scheduled.
Even though not all storms are global, understanding them is crucial to figuring out Mars. ESA’s Mars Express is one of the orbiting spacecraft that observes the Red Planet and its phenomena. The satellite has been launched back in 2004, and it transmitted useful information to astronomers regarding the planet’s atmosphere, geology, and so on.
Mars Express Captures Incredible Dust Storms on the Red Planet
In the last period, the spacecraft has been observing Mars’ dust storms at its north polar region. Mars Express has imaged a few dust storms, both local and regional, forming in the northern areas and scattering towards the equator. These storms last for one to three days, and then they dissipate.
Dust storms on Mars are usually happening a lot this time of the year. They take shape on the edge of the polar ice cap during its seasonal recede. Besides dust storms, clouds of water ice are also forming.
Mars Express features two cameras, namely the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) and the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC). Both cameras spotted and captured amazing images of dust storms on the Red Planet during this long time it has been orbiting it.
Eventually, at some point the local and regional dust storms disappear. Bigger atmospheric circulation takes the lead and the dust is scattered into a thin fog in the atmosphere, at altitudes between 20 to 40 kilometers (12.5 to 25 miles).
If you are interested in the Red Planet’s dust storm behavior, ESA has Twitter and Flickr accounts on which it uploads images from the Mars Express Orbiter’s Visual Monitoring Camera.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.