Dust Storm Nearby

Dust Storm Nearby

WASHINGTON--this is turning out to be a miserable year for our sister planet Mars.

While Earth struggles with terrorism, war, and global recession, Mars has been smothered by a planet-girdling dust storm.

Mew images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars Global Surveyor spaceship show that a monster cloud of dust blotted out almost the entire surface of the red planet this summer.

Only the polar ice caps and the tops of lofty volcanoes could be seen through the thick orange haze. The dust trapped the sun's heat and boosted the temperature of the Martian atmosphere from about 80 degress below zero to about zero Fahrenheit.

A similar storm on Earth would have " almost unimaginable consequences, " said James Garvin, lead scientist for NASA's Mars exploration program. He compared it to the impact of a comet or asteroid on Earth, such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

" Just imagine a hurricane parked off florida for 90 days, " added Michael Malin, manager of the camera on the Global Surveyor.

The storm began in the hellas Basin, a low spot in Mars' southern hemisphere, on June 24. It swiftly spread northward, spawning other dust clouds until they covered 90 percent of the planet within a week.

The martian skies cleared in September, but another massive storm is predicted to begin soon. The planet is nearing its closest point to the sun, and summer is beginning in the northern hemisphere.

" We're still in the dust-storm season, " Philip Christensen, a geologist at Arizona State University in Tempe, told a NASA news conference. " We may not have seen the end of this. "

The timing could be awkward, as another American spaceship, Mars Odyssey, is approaching the planet. On October. 23, it is due to start the process of "areo-braking"--dipping in and out of the atmosphere to slow itself down enough to enter a safe orbit.

Ok, if all of you think you've got problems. Think about our neighbor nearby....


All contents of this site © Finberg Books by Michael Arthur Finberg