Science Comic: Dust Storm on Mars
A brief explainer about the 2018 global dust storm on Mars.
A planet-encircling dust storm that began at the end of May has engulfed Mars. Below all that dust sits the Opportunity Rover. Because the dust blocks out the sunlight Opportunity's solar panels need to charge its batteries, the rover is hibernating for now.
But what may look like a thick, dusty fog...
..would form a fine film only a few tens of microns thick once the dust settles.
That's about the width of a human hair.
When the skies begin to clear, Opportunity's solar panels may be covered by a fine film of dust.
That could delay recovery of the rover as it gathers energy to recharge its batteries.
A gust of wind would help, but Opportunity would most likely be able to recharge without one.
These gusts do happen but not predictably, and not frequently. In fact, Opportunity received a gust of wind shortly before the dust storm started, and scientists don't know when the next one will occur.
Scientists think the storm will last for a few weekes, or even months. Until it ends, all we can do is wait.