Regional dust storm dissipating

Nov 28, 2012 by Guy Webster & D. Agle
A regional dust storm visible in the southern hemisphere of Mars in this nearly global mosaic of observations made by the Mars Color Imager on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 25, 2012, has contracted from its size a week earlier (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16450). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

(Phys.org)—A regional dust storm on Mars, tracked from orbit since Nov. 10, appears to be abating rather than going global.

"During the past week, the regional storm weakened and contracted significantly," said Bruce Cantor of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. Cantor uses the Mars Color Imager camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to monitor storms on the Red Planet.

Effects of the storm on global air-pressure patterns have been detected at ground level by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity.

This graph compares a typical daily pattern of changing atmospheric pressure (blue) with the pattern during a regional dust storm hundreds of miles away (red). The data are by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA's Curiosity rover. Pressure is a measure of the amount of air in the whole column of atmosphere sitting above the rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CAB(CSIC-INTA)/FMI/Ashima Research

"We are getting lots of good data about this storm," said Mark Richardson of Ashima Research, Pasadena, Calif. He is a co-investigator both on REMS and on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's Sounder instrument, which has been detecting widespread effects of the current storm on atmospheric temperatures.

Researchers anticipate that the unprecedented combination of a near-equatorial at ground level, and daily orbital observations during Mars' dust-, may provide information about why some grow larger than others.

Explore further: Computer simulation suggests early Earth bombarded by asteroids and comets

More information: For more information about the missions of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, visit marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/ .

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