June 16, 2024

Dust Storms on Mars Happen When the Planet Can’t Release its Heat Fast Enough

Mars is widely known for its seasonal dust storms, which can in some cases grow to encompass the entire planet. In June 2018, the dust storms became so extreme that they obscured the majority of the planets surface, causing NASA to lose contact with Opportunity, which eventually showed fatal to the record-breaking rover. Understanding these storms and what triggers them is crucial to ensuring that solar-powered robotic objectives continue to run and future crewed objectives can stay safe.
Specifically, researchers are looking for seasonal modifications (i.e., modifications in soaked up solar energy and temperature level increases) that trigger dust storms and cause them to combine and grow. In a current study performed by researchers from the University of Houston, they could arise from seasonal energy imbalances in the amount of solar energy soaked up and released by the world. These findings might result in a brand-new understanding of the Red Planets climate and environment.

The research was led by Ellen Creecy, a Ph.D. student with the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) at the University of Houston, as part of her doctoral thesis. She was joined by Dr. Xun Jiang and Dr. Liming Li (her thesis consultants at the EAS), as well as researchers from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) at the Lunar Planetary Institute (LPI).

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Image of Martian dust storms, handled Nov. 30th, 2010, by NASAs Mars Reconnaissance Orbiters Mars Color Imager. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
For the sake of their study, the team integrated observations from numerous missions like the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), the Curiosity rover, and the InSight lander. This permitted them to design Mars environment and approximate the quantity of energy it emitted worldwide as a function of season, consisting of periods with an international dust storm.
” One of the most intriguing findings is that energy excess– more energy being absorbed than produced– could be one of the producing systems of dust storms on Mars,” said Creecy. They even more discovered that during the planet-encircling 2001 dust storm, the quantity of power gave off internationally decreased by 22% in the daytime but increased by 29% during nighttime.
As Dr. Germán Martínez, a USRA personnel researcher at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) and a co-author of the paper, discussed in a current USRA news release:
” Our outcomes revealing strong energy imbalances suggest that existing numerical models need to be revisited, as these normally assume that Mars glowing energy is balanced in between Mars seasons. Additionally, our outcomes highlight the connection between dust storms and energy imbalances, and hence can provide brand-new insights into the generation of dust storms on Mars.”
Mars in 2001, revealing no dust storms (left) and a worldwide dust storm (right). Credit: Jim Secosky/NASA/JPL/ MSSS.
Combined with mathematical models of Mars environment, the groups results could enhance our understanding of the Martian climate and atmospheric circulations. This will be especially important for future crewed missions to Mars, which NASA and China hope to mount in the coming decade.
The paper that explains their findings, “Mars produced energy and seasonal energy imbalance,” just recently appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
More Reading: USRA.
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Mars is well-known for its seasonal dust storms, which can sometimes grow to include the entire planet. In June 2018, the dust storms ended up being so severe that they obscured many of the worlds surface, triggering NASA to lose contact with Opportunity, which ultimately proved deadly to the record-breaking rover. Specifically, researchers are looking for seasonal changes (i.e., changes in taken in solar energy and temperature boosts) that trigger dust storms and cause them to combine and grow.” One of the most interesting findings is that energy excess– more energy being absorbed than produced– could be one of the creating mechanisms of dust storms on Mars,” said Creecy. They further found that throughout the planet-encircling 2001 dust storm, the amount of power gave off internationally reduced by 22% in the daytime but increased by 29% throughout nighttime.