Image: Simulating Martian dust storms

September 21, 2016, European Space Agency
Credit: European Space Agency

Mars is a dusty place and you might not think it is surprising that we regularly see dust storms on its surface. But the phenomenon has puzzled scientists since the 1980s when experiments showed that typical wind speeds recorded on Mars are not strong enough to lift the dust.

Many theories have been suggested to explain the but few experiments have investigated them.

This experiment was designed by four students from the university of Duisberg-Essen in Germany as part of their thesis project. It will fly on ESA's parabolic flight campaign that offers repeated 20 seconds of weightlessness.

Inside the canister is a small wind channel filled with at to represent the atmosphere found on Mars. The canister spins like a centrifuge and recreates different levels of gravity – the faster it spins the heavier the contents will be. This experiment cannot be done on the ground because the team wants to recreate Mars gravity – around two thirds of gravity on Earth.

Explore further: Engineers consider how to collect dust from low-gravity surfaces

Related Stories

Dust storms on Mars

August 24, 2015

In the 1870's astronomers first noted the presence of yellow clouds on the surface of Mars and suggested they were caused by windblown dust. Today, dust storms on Mars are well known and those that display visible structures ...

Mars orbiters reveal seasonal dust storm pattern

June 10, 2016

After decades of research to discern seasonal patterns in Martian dust storms from images showing the dust, but the clearest pattern appears to be captured by measuring the temperature of the Red Planet's atmosphere.

A decade of plant biology in space

July 5, 2016

On this day 10 years ago, Space Shuttle Discovery was launched to the International Space Station carrying ESA's European Modular Cultivation System – a miniature greenhouse to probe how plants grow in weightlessness.

Spotlight on Schiaparelli's landing site

August 11, 2016

Schiaparelli, the Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module of the joint ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars 2016 mission, will target the Meridiani Planum region for its October landing, as seen in this mosaic created from Mars Express ...

Recommended for you

Unconfirmed near-Earth objects

June 22, 2018

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are small solar system bodies whose orbits sometimes bring them close to the Earth, potentially threatening a collision. NEOs are tracers of the composition, dynamics and environmental conditions ...

HESS J1943+213 is an extreme blazar, study finds

June 21, 2018

An international group of astronomers have carried out multi-wavelength observations of HESS J1943+213 and found evidence supporting the hypothesis that this gamma-ray source is an extreme blazar. The finding is reported ...

'Red nuggets' are galactic gold for astronomers

June 21, 2018

About a decade ago, astronomers discovered a population of small, but massive galaxies called "red nuggets." A new study using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory indicates that black holes have squelched star formation in these ...

The Rosetta stone of active galactic nuclei deciphered

June 21, 2018

A galaxy with at least one active supermassive black hole – named OJ 287 – has caused many irritations and questions in the past. The emitted radiation of this object spans a wide range – from the radio up to the highest ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

cantdrive85
1 / 5 (1) Oct 06, 2016
But the phenomenon has puzzled scientists since the 1980s when experiments showed that typical wind speeds recorded on Mars are not strong enough to lift the dust.

It's a puzzle because they refuse to acknowledge the electrical aspect of the dust storms.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.