Mars Dust Storm Ideal For Scientific Study

first_img As Storm Hector’s 70 mph winds leave a trail of destruction across Scotland, NASA’s Opportunity rover was forced to suspend operations during “one of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars.”Unlike many Brits, though, agency engineers are rejoicing over the celestial squall.“This is the ideal storm for Mars science,” according to Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program in Washington.The agency has three orbiters circling the globe, each equipped with special cameras and atmospheric instruments.“We have a historic number of spacecraft operating at the Red Planet,” Watzin said in a statement. “Each offers a unique look at how dust storms form and behave—knowledge that will be essential for future robotic and human missions.”This set of images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows a fierce, giant dust storm kicking up on Mars (via NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)Martian dust storms are commonplace. They can quickly balloon into regional storms, and sometimes expand to engulf the entire planet. These full-scale events are estimated to occur about once every three to four Mars years (six to eight Earth years), and can last up to weeks or even months. The most recently recorded storm was in 2007.The one currently swirling above Opportunity now blankets 14 million square miles of the Martian surface—about a quarter of the planet, as reported by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).Scary as that sounds, this is a perfect chance for scientists to study the physics of these storms, which is critical to understanding the planet’s ancient and modern climate“Each observation of these large storms brings us closer to being able to model these events—and maybe, someday, being able to forecast them,” Rich Zurek, chief scientist for the Mars Program Office at JPL in California, said. “That would be like forecasting El Niño events on Earth, or the severity of upcoming hurricane seasons.”Among NASA’s eyes in the sky is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which acts as an early warning system for situations like this. It was the capsule’s wide-angle camera, called the Mars Color Imager, that provided the Opportunity team a heads up about the coming storm.The 2001 Mars Odyssey and MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) orbiters, meanwhile, provide additional-yet-unique views for the folks back home.Keep an eye on NASA’s Mars Exploration Program website for more updated about the Martian dust storm.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target NASA Captures ‘Red-Handed’ Avalanche on Mars in Mesmerizing PhotoBest Skywatching Events in September 2019 last_img read more

GEEK PICK Star Wars Millennium Falcon Book Light

first_imgWhen you want to read in the dark, just clip this light onto a couple of pages or the cover (about an inch thick or less) and adjust the bendy 11-inch next for the most comfortable position. The padded clamps protect the paper. Two cell batteries power three white LEDs giving you the light you need to make out the thrilling text but not being strong enough to strain your eyes.There’s nothing saying you can’t use this with any book you want. Use it to read the yellow pages for all we care. But the big plastic Millennium Falcon model the lights are housed in really makes you want to read a Star Wars novel. Pressing the top of the Falcon turns the lights on, and they’re location at the two front points and the side cockpit.Even ignoring the attached clip and neck, The Star Wars Millennium Falcon Book Light is just a cool little spaceship toy. If it gets you to read more that’s a bonus. For more on Star Wars check out our reviews of Solo and The Last Jedi. Geek Pick: Shure MV88+ Is An Excellent, On the Go Microphone KitGeek Pick: Amazon Smart Plug Puts Alexa in Your Walls When Disney bought Star Wars from famous cool dude George Lucas, one of the first sacrifices the company made when reviving the #brand was killing off pretty much the entire Expanded Universe. If they were going to make all of the money in the world, they couldn’t let The Force Awakens be beholden to canon from a hundred different novels only nerds read. Some ideas from the EU became canon, like Thrawn, and there are new Star Wars books that are canon. But now a bunch of Star Wars content is even more fake than before.Even if EU books don’t count though they can still be a fun read. If you want to huddle in the dark and catch up on what Darth Caedus is up to, check out the Star Wars Millennium Falcon Book Light. Stay on target Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img read more