There's a Historic Dust Storm on Mars — and It's Nothing Like 'The Martian'

Space.com | 6/14/2018 | Staff
jolan (Posted by) Level 3
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As an intense dust storm rages on Mars, many are wondering — how bad can a Martian storm really be?

Tuesday (June 12), NASA's Opportunity rover stopped communications amid a severe dust storm on the Red Planet. But while the storm hasn't killed the rover yet — Opportunity could still revive once the skies clear — how dangerous can storms on Mars get?

Series - Mars - Rover - Opportunity - Conditions

This series of simulated Mars rover Opportunity images shows how conditions have changed around the NASA rover as a huge dust storm has intensified (from left to right) throughout June 2018.

However, even when winds on the Red Planet reach their highest speeds, wind on Mars isn't quite as powerful as it is on Earth. "Mars' atmospheric pressure is a lot less [than Earth's]. So, things get blown [around], but it's not with the same intensity," William Farrell, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the statement.

Film - Mark - Watney - Panels - Day

So, "The Martian" film accurately shows Mark Watney sweeping dust off of his solar panels every day, because Martian dust particles accumulate and stick easily because they're slightly electrostatic. But dust storms on Mars aren't as powerful as they might seem based on the movie.

Still, Martian storms still could pose risks to humans. In a special NASA teleconference on June 13, researchers said that, while Mars' atmosphere is thin, there is still dust being raised. This could hypothetically complicate regular functioning and visibility for future crewed missions. Additionally, dust storms create "sort of a greenhouse effect in which the radiation that otherwise would be...
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