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Dust storms brew over Mars

The European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter captured images of dust storms swirling over Red Planet's northern ice cap.
RELATED TOPICS: MARS

ESA/GCP/UPV/EHU Bilbao


Near the north pole of Mars, a dust storm has been raging for over a month. The dark clouds have been moving around the ice cap at about 4.5 mph (2 m/s), as observed by The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft. The above image frames make up a time-lapse covering about 70 minutes, as dust storms push across the planet’s north polar ice cap.

These storms usually last for a few days or weeks but can cover the entire planet at times, which happened last year. But most often, dust storms cover just a small area of the planet.

ESA has been keeping track of these storms with the Mars Express spacecraft. Their first mission to another planet in our solar system, Mars Express has been observing the Red Planet since 2004.

By studying the current climate on Mars, scientists can predict what the past climate of the planet was like, as well as prepare for future missions to Mars.
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Explore NASA's missions to Saturn, Pluto and Jupiter in this free PDF curated by Astronomy magazine.