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Mars facing seasol dust storms: SA

New York, June 13: SA’s Mars Orbiters have for the first time revealed a seasol dust storm pattern on the Red Planet — paving the way to improve the scientists’ ability to predict the potentially hazardous phenome for future robotic and human missions to the planet. After decades of research focusing mainly on images to understand the seasol patterns of Martian dust storms, the clearest pattern emerged after an alysis of the Red Planet’s atmospheric temperature.

“When we look at the temperature structure instead of the visible dust, we filly see some regularity in the large dust storms,” said lead study author David Kass of SA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

According to the study, published recently in the jourl Geophysical Research Letters, temperature records from SA Mars orbiters reveal a pattern of three types of large regiol dust storms occurring in sequence at about the same time each year during the southern hemisphere spring and summer. Each Martian year lasts about two Earth years.

“Recognising a pattern in the occurrence of regiol dust storms is a step toward understanding the fundamental atmospheric properties controlling them,” Kass said. “We still have much to learn, but this gives us a valuable opening,” he added.

The SA researchers used data from the Mars Climate Sounder on Mars Reconissance Orbiter and the Thermal Emission Spectrometer on Mars Global Surveyor to alyse temperature data of a broad layer about 25 km above the Martian surface. Most Martian dust storms are localised, smaller than about 2,000 km across and dissipating within a few days. Some become regiol, affecting up to a third of the planet and persisting up to three weeks. Three large regiol storms, dubbed types ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’, appeared in each of the six Martian years investigated. Multiple small storms form sequentially near Mars’ north pole in the northern autumn, similar to Earth’s cold-season arctic storms that swing one after another across North America. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita