The storms typically stay contained to one area on the planet. Mars has a history of dust storms NASA says the dust storm encircling Mars is comparable in scale to a similar storm observed by Viking I in 1977, but not as big as the 2007 storm that Opportunity previously weathered.
This composite image made from a series of June 15, 2018 photos shows a self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover in the Gale Crater.
The Martian dust storm has now grown so big as to encircle the entire planet, but that hasn't stopped NASA's Curiosity rover.
This animation, pieced together from pictures taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera, shows the weather darkening over Mars. Named the Mars Hand Lens Imager, the instrument can not capture the whole car-sized Curiosity rover, therefore it had to take more than 200 shots, which were later put together to form a single panorama.
"The project doesn't expect to hear back from Opportunity until the skies begin to clear over the rover", NASA says of ground controllers based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
The space agency says this global event serves as an opportunity to study why these dust storms like this one last for as long as they do "while others stay small and last only a week".
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New photos from Curiosity show a wall of haze over Gale Crater that is up to eight times thicker than normal for this time on Mars, NASA officials said. They're especially frequent in the southern hemisphere during both spring and summer months (Mars', not the ones on Earth). The warmer air circulates faster, suspending dust particles the size of talcum powder grains.
Carbon dioxide frozen on the winter polar cap evaporates, thickening the atmosphere and increasing the surface pressure. In some cases, the dust clouds reach up to 40 miles (60 kilometers) or more in elevation.
In the meantime, NASA will continue to gather information on the storm and hopefully learn a thing or two. By contrast, the current storm, if it were happening on Earth, is bigger than North America and Russian Federation combined, says Guzewich.
Two reports released in the June 7 issue of Science give glimmers of hope for those who seek evidence of life beyond this puny planet. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter gave Opportunity's engineers an early warning about the approaching storm and acts like a weather satellite.
The size difference is one of the elements that allows Martian dust storms to grow to such vast sizes.
While it's not the great solar eclipse of August 2017, night sky watchers are still going to get a treat over the next few weeks as Mars makes its closest, "Close Approach" to Earth since 2003. Earth also has vegetation cover on land that binds the soil with its roots and helps block the wind and rain that wash the particles out of the atmosphere.