MAVEN observations on dust storms

pia22329anno-16The Opportunity rover has proven hardier than expected by operating for nearly 15 years, despite being designed for a 90-day mission. The rover regularly deals with intense dust storms at the surface of the Red Planet and occasionally has to suspend science operations as it waits out such adverse conditions. (…)

It turns out that Opportunity’s loss is — scientifically speaking — MAVEN’s gain.

Previous MAVEN observations of dust increases in the lower Martian atmosphere have revealed dramatic variations in atmospheric composition and density at altitudes from 170 to 220km in Mars’ neutral thermosphere. (See here for additional details.)

The observations reveal that CO₂, N₂, CO, O, and Argon densities all increase up to ~200% compared to typical densities. The density increases are seen throughout this altitude region, and the relative variations are seen to be stronger at higher altitudes.

During increased dust load, MAVEN scientists have observed that the whole Mars atmosphere expands and rises, a phenomenon predicted by general circulation models of how dust increases affect different atmospheric species in the thermosphere… [More at links]

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