Scientists Track "Perfect Storm" on Mars

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Scientists Track "Perfect Storm" on Mars

Two dramatically different faces of the red planet appear in these comparison images showing how a global dust storm engulfed Mars with the onset of Martian spring in the Southern Hemisphere. When NASA's Hubble Space Telescope imaged Mars in June, the seeds of the storm were caught brewing in the giant Hellas Basin (oval at 4 o'clock position on disk) and in another storm at the northern polar cap.

When Hubble photographed Mars in early September, the storm had already been raging across the planet for nearly two months obscuring all surface features. The fine airborne dust blocks a significant amount of sunlight from reaching the Martian surface. Because the airborne dust is absorbing this sunlight, it heats the upper atmosphere. Seasonal global Mars dust storms have been observed from telescopes for over a century, but this is the biggest storm ever seen in the past several decades.

Image Number: NASA-PIA03173
Credit: James Bell (Cornell Univ.), Michael Wolff (Space Science Inst.), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
For print or commercial use, please contact: Hubble Heritage Team

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