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Astronomy Now Now you see it, now you don’t; before and after a global dust storm

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William Harwood

Images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provide dramatic before-and-after shots of Mars showing the impact of a global dust storm that has obscured the surface and temporarily, at least, knocked the solar-powered Opportunity rover out of action by blocking out the sunlight needed to keep its batteries charged.


Mars, before and after a global dust storm. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The unobscured view from MRO’s Mars Colour Imager – MARCI – shows the Valles Marineris chasms (left), the Meridiani plain where Opportunity landed in 2004, an autumn dust storm in Acidalia (top) and the south polar cap. The view from July shows the entire planet obscured by clouds and haze.

NASA’s Deep Space Network has not heard from the Opportunity rover since the robot fell silent June 10, its solar panels unable to generate enough power to recharge the spacecraft’s battery. Flight controllers continue to listen for a signal, but given the dust storm’s severity, it could be weeks before they learn if the robot survived its trial by dust.

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