The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express has spotted dust storms swirling at the north pole of Mars over the last month.
Mars’ northern hemisphere is currently experiencing spring and ESA’s spacecraft has caught some great pictures of many dust storms.
Local and regional storms that last for days or weeks are a pretty common thing on Mars. But sometimes dust can engulf the entire planet. A global storm happened last year, circling the planet for many months. The thick dust pall deprived NASA’s solar-powered Opportunity rover of sunlight. Therefore, bringing an end to the robot’s long and accomplished mission.
“It is currently spring in the northern hemisphere of Mars, and water-ice clouds and small dust-lifting events are frequently observed along the edge of the seasonally retreating [polar] ice cap,” ESA officials wrote Thursday (July 4) in a statement accompanying the photos.
Many of the spacecraft at Mars return daily weather reports from orbit or from the surface. Thus, providing global and local impressions of the changing atmospheric conditions.
Mars Express “observed at least eight different storms at the edge of the ice cap between 22 May and 10 June, which formed and dissipated very quickly, between one and three days,” the officials added.
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Two cameras on the Mars Express spacecraft, including the High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) and the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), have been keeping an eye on the storms for a few weeks.
ESA’s spacecraft has caught the above sequence of many images with the VMC over a 70-minute period on May 29. The storm started on 28 May and continued to around 1 June, moving towards the equator during that time.
The dust was moving from the ice cap’s margin toward the huge volcanoes Olympus Mons and Elysium Mons. When the storms reached these volcanoes, clouds in the area “that had previously been developing started to evaporate as a result of the air mass being heated by the influx of dust,” ESA officials wrote.
Meanwhile, employees have compiled another collection of images by Mars Express (above) from pictures of a different storm that VMC took over a period of 70 minutes on 29 May.