Dust Storm Starting to Subside

Evidence Martian Dust Stom is Subsiding:
by John Hlynialuk

A frame from the animation created by astrophotographer Damian Peach showing a global dust storm on Mars.
Damian Peach
More on this animation here: Damian Peach animation

Recent reports (July 27) indicate that the worst is over for the Martian dust storm and the dust seems to be subsiding. We are not out of the woods yet, however, as it can take several months for the atmosphere to clear to pre-storm levels. The worst possible scenario is for another storm to start up, as it is dust storm season in the southern hemisphere on Mars.

Hopefully, the atmosphere will clear up and viewing of surface features will get back to “normal” very soon, perhaps by the end of August.

The article quoted here from www.space.com gives the current status of the dust storm and its effect on ground resources like Opportunity, for example. Also make sure you have a look at the link in the Damian Peach image above which shows the before and after views of Mars.

Martian Dust Storm is Starting to Die Down
from www.space.com July 27, 2018

The dust is finally beginning to clear on Mars, but it'll probably still be a while before NASA's sidelined Opportunity rover can phone home.
global dust storm has enshrouded Mars for more than a month, plunging the planet's surface into perpetual darkness. That's complicated life significantly for the solar-powered Opportunity, which has apparently put itself into a sort of hibernation; the rover hasn't contacted its controllers since June 10.

A long-awaited dawn seems to be on the horizon, however. [
Mars Dust Storm 2018: How It Grew & What It Means for the Opportunity Rover]

"It's the beginning of the end for the planet-encircling dust storm on Mars," NASA officials wrote in an
Opportunity mission update yesterday (July 26).

Scientists studying the storm "say that, as of Monday, July 23, more dust is falling out than is being raised into the planet's thin air," agency officials added. "That means the event has reached its decay phase, when dust-raising occurs in ever smaller areas, while others stop raising dust altogether.”

Other data points support this conclusion. For example, measurements by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that temperatures in the middle atmosphere have stopped rising, indicating less absorption of solar heat by dust particles.

In addition, NASA's Curiosity rover — which is nuclear-powered and can therefore work through the storm — has observed a decline in overhead dust at its location, the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater, agency officials said.

Some Martian landforms previously hidden beneath the dust can now be spotted from orbit again, they added, and may even be visible using Earth-based telescopes by early next week, when Mars will make its
closest approach to our planet since 2003

But don't hold your breath waiting to hear from Opportunity, which has been exploring Mars since 2004. According to yesterday's mission update, "it could still be weeks, or even months, before skies are clear enough" for Opportunity to recharge its batteries and ping its handlers.
The storm is a serious threat to the six-wheeled robot, but mission team members have expressed
cautious optimism that Opportunity will survive. Their calculations suggest that temperatures at Opportunity's location — the rim of the 14-mile-wide (22 km) Endeavour Crater — won't get cold enough to freeze the rover to death.

That fate befell Opportunity's twin, Spirit, after it got bogged down in sand in 2010 and couldn't reorient itself to catch the sun.

Originally published on Space.com.