The massive dust storm on Mars that covered almost one-fourth of the Red Planet just about a week ago has now grown to be a global weather episode, as declared by an official of NASA on 20th June (Wednesday).
This massive Martian dust storm has knocked off NASA’s Opportunity rover without any light. Curiosity, the agency’s nuclear power spacecraft in the meanwhile has been snapping pictures of the darkening Mars sky. Both the rovers are on Mars at the opposite sides of the planet.
NASA Officials mentioned in a statement that the Martian dust storm has grown immensely in size and has become ‘planet-encircling’ – a global dust event.
As per officials at NASA’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in California, the last time a dust storm in Mars went global was in 2007, about five years prior Curiosity landed on Mar’s Gale Crater site. Since 2004, Opportunity has been exploring on the plains of Meridiani Planum at the opposite side. With the dust storm getting bigger and stronger NASA lost all contacts with the rover for several days now because of the low power levels due to lack of proper sunlight.
The contact with opportunity was lost last week when it missed a check in the call on 12th June. Engineers at NASA thinks that the rover has gone on a low power mode, only waking up periodically to see if the batteries have been recharged or not to call back home. The rover’s all scientific operations have been suspended while it waits for the storm to move out.
In a separate update on Wednesday, NASA officials wrote that as per a recent analysis on the rover; long-term sustainability on the Red Planet in its extreme cold conditions suggests that Opportunity’s batteries and electronics can remain warm enough for proper functioning. Although the project is not expected to hear back from Opportunity till the sky clears over the rover, that does not stop NASA from hearing from the rover each day.
Declared first on 30th March by NASA, the Martian dust storm was detected by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Once after it was confirmed that the storm would affect Opportunity, it was ordered to be in a survival mode sort. From a series of pics from Opportunity before it went on silent mode, shows the Martian sky getting darker until the sun disappears from view.