Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Giant Storm On Mars

In the past few hours an immense storm, thousands of kilometres across, has developed on the surface of Mars. The best photos come from "amateur" astronomer Paul Maxson of Arizona. In the upper RGB image, it appears as a red spot Northeast of the planet's centre (white on the infrared image). In the lower set of photos, taken June 26, the storm has quadrupled in area. The storm is being monitored by the Mars Odyssey orbiter. Presently the storm is less than 900 km East of the Opportunity Rover, which is exploring Meridiani Planum.

The weather is certainly on our minds today! Storms on Mars are immense. A big one observed in 2001 engulfed the entire planet in dust. The red Martian soil is very likely similiar to that of Hawaii. Like the lunar regolith, it is highly abrasive and gets into everything. NASA, your manned Mars hardware had better be able to deal with this. Mine can.

Today the Planetary Society hosts the new Carnival of Space!



Blogger nige said...

Wow! When humans get to Mars they'll have to be prepared to encounter strange weather. Do you know what the wind speeds near the surface of Mars can reach?

Is it like a sandstorm, and is it dense enough to cause interference of radio communications from astronauts on the surface?

Does it cause a massive temperature drop on the surface when the dust cloud billows overhead?

Is anyone trying to develop meteorological computer models to forecast the weather on Mars? Surely that will be vital before people arrive there on a long mission.

8:40 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Surface wind speeds have been measured up to 130 km/hr. It can interfere with radio communications. Wind has extended the rover's lifetimes by cleaning their solar panels of dust.

I don;t know if anyone has tried to model the atmosphere, but that wopuld be an interesting project. There are so many variables invlolved with weather that we can't model it accurately on Earth.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Neil Bates said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:26 AM  
Blogger Neil Bates said...

Yes, this is neat. I remember during the perihelic opposition of 8/27/03: I looked at Mars with a decent quality 60mm refractor, f = 700mm and a cheesy but well-ground 6mm Huygens eyepiece for 117 X. It looked large and very nice. The overall color was beautiful, and I could see some patches, and even make out the North (IIRC) polar cap. I could definitely make out the planet as "a disk" with a 30mm, 25 X "Admiral Nelson" draw-tube brass telescope. Fabulous

BTW, how could they ever have had a controversy about whether the dark patches were really "greenish" on Mars? Even in the 19th century, they could have measured the color balance. In the 18th, maybe stopped down the field to avoid subjective contrast effects. As for it maybe being vegetation: look for the near IR reflection band. BTW that reminds me, any good pics of Mars (and anything else! - please give links) made with Infrared Ektachrome, and why is that film so hard to get?


7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it looks like future Martians may have to build underground bunkers after all. :-)

In 2001 (if I'm correct) there was a storm that covered the entire planet!

At least you can't say Mars if very boring. ;-)

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