is turning out to be a miserable year for our sister planet
Earth struggles with terrorism, war, and global recession, Mars
has been smothered by a planet-girdling dust storm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
if all of you think you've got problems. Think about our neighbor