Mars global dust storm persists. See the latest pics here
Wednesday, July 4, 2018, 6:53 PM - A global dust storm still engulfs Mars, and while NASA's venerable Opportunity rover sleeps through, its bigger cousin, Curiosity, is still at work and sending back incredible images of its dusty skies.
It's been over a month now since a dust storm kicked up on Mars, starting in the vicinity of the Opportunity rover, and then spreading around the planet in the days that followed.
Two images from the ESA's Mars Express orbiter, taken roughly 10 years apart, from different distances and different angles, but showing the same region of Mars. In July 2008 (left), it was easy to see many Martian surface features, including all four of the planet's giant volcanic mountains: the three Tharsis Montes - Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons and Arsia Mons - and Olympus Mons on its own. In July 2018, there is so much obscuring dust in the atmosphere that only the tops of the two largest - Olympus Mons and Arsia Mons - are just barely visible. Credit: ESA-European Space Agency/Scott Sutherland
Currently, NASA's rover team for Opportunity, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is still waiting it out, hoping to soon hear from their veteran explorer soon. Since the rover is solar-powered, the dust has made it impossible to gather sufficient energy to maintain communication. It went silent on June 12.
Curiosity, Opportunity's bigger, nuclear-powered cousin, is still operating at near optimum levels, though, and continues to return pictures each sol - of the storm, and of its science operations, as it returns to drilling into various Martian rocks.
Curiosity MastCam images, from May 17 (Sol 2054) to June 29 (Sol 2096), show the dust get gradually worse in Gale Crater, causing the rover to completely lose sight of the crater rim as of June 15 (Sol 2082). Only the closer outcropping of rock and a few of the sand dunes just beyond it, remain visible through the rest of the month. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Scott Sutherland
A 'sol' is a day on Mars, which is 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds long. The sol number is specific to each mission, however. Sol 2082 for Curiosity is that rover's 2082nd sol on Mars, and corresponds to June 15, 2018 here on Earth. June 12, 2018, when the Opportunity rover powered down, was the 5112th sol of its mission.
As we wait it out, with orbiters and at least one rover recording the progress of this storm, there's really no telling exactly when the skies will clear.
Stay tuned for more updates, and to see more images, sol by sol, from Curiosity's collection of cameras, go to NASA JPL's Mars Science Laboratory website.