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Space Science

New Dust Storm on Mars Viewable with Telescopes 105

Posted by Zonk
from the we'll-be-able-to-see-the-space-zombies-coming dept.
starexplorer writes "Space.com is reporting that a large dust storm has just began on Mars, just as the Red Planet has gotten in prime viewing location this weekend with a decent sized backyard telescope. An amazing stroke of luck for everyone this weekend! Three PDF Viewing Guides, movies and more available to help get you started."
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New Dust Storm on Mars Viewable with Telescopes

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:39PM (#13901229) Homepage Journal

    I've got a Meade 125-ETX, I wonder how visible this will be. The last time Mars was close and I lugged the scope out It was mostly a brown smudge.

    Mars will be 43,137,071 miles from Earth at around 11:25 p.m. ET Saturday.

    That's 13,803,862,720 rods for the anti-science crowd.

  • Mars Dust Bad! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deathcow (455995) * on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:39PM (#13901236)
    While this is exciting for amateur astronomers to see a process like this happening on Mars, it's also very forboding and ominous. Mars has a bad habit of becoming engulfed in planet wide dust storms which almost totally hide the surface features of the planet.

    I am sure many amateurs like myself would prefer NO dust storms on Mars while it is so close to the Earth, and so favorably positioned for Northern hemisphere observers. This has been a great Mars apparition so far, I've watched it growing in the eyepiece since August. If the dust stays clear, Mars will be large enough to enjoy until almost February. If it turns into a cloudy red ball, well...

    This page shows a dust storm growing from the 2003 apparition of Mars, and a picture of the dreaded featureless red ball.
    http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/09jul_mars dust.htm [nasa.gov]

    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:41PM (#13901259) Homepage Journal
      While this is exciting for amateur astronomers to see a process like this happening on Mars, it's also very forboding and ominous. Mars has a bad habit of becoming engulfed in planet wide dust storms which almost totally hide the surface features of the planet.

      Also plays havoc with tracking giant sand worms and collecting spice.

    • I am sure many amateurs like myself would prefer NO dust storms on Mars while it is so close to the Earth

      My thoughts exactly. What is so fortunate about having your perfect view obscured? Was the OP expecting Twister in Dolby 5.1?
    • Re:Mars Dust Bad! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)
      Mars has a bad habit of becoming engulfed in planet wide dust storms which almost totally hide the surface features of the planet.

      It looks impressive from here but I am not sure how dense the dust really is. If a storm like this impacts on one of the two rovers currently operating there it would definitely cause some power supply problems for them, but I don't know if this would be immediately fatal.

      • I'm thinking that this may be an interesting opportunity to see a Mars dust storm (and what it does) from the inside. It may have an impact on the rovers' ability to run around on the surface, but it may also make some entirely new science possible.

        It may even be possible to track the wind speeds of the storm if two closely spaced images are lucky ehough to track a recognizable object moving across the line of sight.

        In the meantime, the dust storms don't make any real difference to my personal view, b

        • So what do you use the rest of the year? There were some really nice nights this past summer when even the lights from YVR couldn't diminish the seeing up here in Kerrisdale.
          • That's why I said 'this time of year'. It seems like permanent, but it really only lasts for months at a time. Star watching is really spectacular from Wreck beach when it's clear.
        • In the meantime, the dust storms don't make any real difference to my personal view, because I live in Vancouver which is almost permanently clouded over at this time of year.

          Looks a bit like Venus. Must be warm :)

    • Are you suggesting they send a giant Swiffer up with the next rover?
    • I'm far more concerned about the Mars Rovers being able to weather the storm, and come out without their solar panels dust-covered.
      • Yeah, these storm winds look big. Wouldn't they be throwing the rovers around?
        • Re:Rovers (Score:3, Informative)

          by jacksonj04 (800021)
          No. Due to the lower gravity and atmospheric density on Mars, it is very easy for even light winds to whip the dust into what look like impressive storms. However, something reasonably solid such as a rover can (in theory, wouldn't recommend it due to the dust abrasion etc) plough straight through the middle of whirlwinds etc. with no issues of being flung around.
    • Last time everyone said "go look at mars, it's as close and bright as it is going to get in your lifetime", we did. We used a 10" Meade telescope, bought an adapter for a Nikon Coolpix 990 camera, and got...pictures of an orange/brown sphere. This was pretty disapointing until all the astro mags came in with an apology for getting us out there during a planet wide dust storm. We accurately saw that there was nothing to see. Fun star party, though.
    • That was my initial response. Why would anyone want a dust storm at this close observation period? we want to see the surface, not some Zephyr.
  • by spikexyz (403776) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:40PM (#13901250)
    Dust storms are obviously complex events with particles going in all sort of directions...clearly indicate the existance of an intelligent dust storm causer.
  • Lucky? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:41PM (#13901260)
    An amazing stroke of luck for everyone this weekend!

    Not if you live on Mars.
    • If you lived on Mars, this might indeed be a good thing. With no natural rivers to bring to replenish nutrients, dust storms would be quite an advantage when farming. Granted, they would likely sandblast anything you had planted, so you would have to harvest before storms, but I think that, on the whole, they would be quite beneficial. I wonder what Earthly plants could survive in a cold, tenuous carbon dioxide atmosphere, with thick enough bark to sustain a sandstorm?
  • Its just a herd of RIAA lawyers migrating
  • Not Viewable ... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    VISIBLE!!!

    I'll never read Slashdot again.
    • Not Viewable ... VISIBLE!!!

      But you didn't have a problem with "has just began"?
      • But you didn't have a problem with "has just began"?

        Dude, it's Friday night and he's still at home in front of his computer posting on Slashdot. He probably depressed about that, so he can't catch everything. I mean, really. Friday night .. at home .. posting on Slashdot .. and you expect him to ...

        Uh ...

        Wait a minute ...

        Well, I'm married with two kids, both less than 6 years old. At least that gives me an excuse for not having a life on a Friday night. :)
  • Mars always was great from the Earth, with the unica difference that this time will be seen 69 million kilometers of the Earth
  • Who wants to go explore and live on a planet where there are regular "continent-sized" dust storms?

    Not I.

    Face it: humans evolved in the specific circumstances of the surface of the Earth, and until we can create a practical high-energy source that allows for heavily-shielded spaceships/habitats, it will be extremely expensive to keep humans alive & healthy anywhere else.
    • by Somegeek (624100)
      It's not about going to Mars because its a pretty fun place to visit like Disneyland. It's about going to Mars because of a desire to learn about new environments and new science and new technology.

      We are like 15th century Europe about to start exploring the Americas, it's a huge wild dangerous place filled with great unknowns and fantastically huge potential. Should we stay home in our safe little castles or step out into the next frontier and learn how to live there and what its pitfalls and rewards are
      • It's not about going to Mars because its a pretty fun place to visit like Disneyland. It's about going to Mars because of a desire to learn about new environments and new science and new technology.

        We are like 15th century Europe about to start exploring the Americas, it's a huge wild dangerous place filled with great unknowns and fantastically huge potential. Should we stay home in our safe little castles or step out into the next frontier and learn how to live there and what its pitfalls and rewards are?


        I
        • Please note: I am not a scientist/astronaut/engineer/... so all of my info is second hand, but I believe it to be correct as far as we know.

          So with that grain of salt, I think we are farther along that you think.

          Except for the duration of travel, the Moon is a harsher mistress than Mars. It's colder at night, hotter in the day, less gravity while you're staying there, the long night will be killer on any scenario that tries to use solar power or batteries, and the radiation is worse due to no atmosphe

      • It's about going to Mars because of a desire to learn about new environments and new science and new technology.

        You do that with probes, not with people. Human space exploration is literally a worthless idea. Anything a human can do on Mars, a robot can do a thousand times as efficiently.

        Unlike the Americas, Mars isn't hospitable to humans so there's no reason to live there.
  • Earth is closer to the Sun, so it effectively passes Mars every 26 months as both worlds orbit the central star.
    Does we orbit any other stars?
  • It's all Bush's fault!!

    It's not bad enough that he has to screw up one planet's climate, now he's messing with Mars! If only he had signed that Kyoto treaty...
  • Those martians really are an introverted crowd, throwing up a big dust storm to prevent all of us perverted peeping humans from getting a look at their wives' nighties through their windows!
  • How is Mars having a dust storm? What is causing it? I thought energy can't be produced?
    • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:2, Informative)

      by tzot (834456)
      Have you seen a strange large ball of fire in the sky? Ever considered it might be a source of energy?

      Earth is closer to the Sun than Mars is, but there's still a lot of energy reaching Mars' surface.

    • ...and, unlike our Moon, Mars has suffcient mass to retain a tenuous atmosphere that can support dust for extended periods.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @08:32PM (#13901681)
    .

    The storm can be clearly seen in the equatorial region.
  • Amateur power . . . (Score:3, Informative)

    by flug (589009) on Friday October 28, 2005 @09:42PM (#13902079)
    This is a great example of the type of work that can and is still being done by amateur astronomers.

    (Actually Clay Sherrod, who seems to be the first to have imaged this storm, isn't an amateur but he's active in the ALPO Mars section which consists mainly of amateurs and he images at a small observatory, not some huge government funded observatory with various gigantic telescopes.)

    The thing is, the big expensive government funded telescopes, or the Hubble, for example, can take better photos of Mars than amateurs can. But there is the question of coverage . . . the big expensive telescopes just don't have the resources (ie, observing time) to image Mars (or any other particular object or planet) several times a night whenever that object is visible.

    But amateurs do have the observing time available and they do the work . . . result is, amateurs do a lot of the meat & potatoes of keeping an eye on things like Mars or Jupiter.

    More of Sherrod's photos of the beginning of the Mars dust storm [arksky.org] and numerous photos of this Mars apparition [arksky.org].

    Since Sherrod is imaging Mars pretty much every possible night, he was on the spot to catch this as it happened . . .

    Also, if you haven't been following trends in astro-imaging, you may be amazed at the quality of images people are now getting using relatively modest telescopes (generally 8 to 14 inch scopes, the sort of thing you can buy basically off the shelf for maybe $800 to $5000) coupled with inexpensive webcams.

    See numerous amateur astronomer's images of this apparition of Mars here [arizona.edu]. (warning--LOTS of images on that page).

  • ... are down there suffering in that storm, and all we can do is talk about how cool it is.

    George Bush doesn't care about green people. With tentacles. And big bug eyes. Mind control devices. Heat rays, anti-gravity belts, uranium PU-32 space modulators...

  • I wonder how this storm my affect the twin rovers on mars ?
    Has anyone heard about this issue ?
  • Atmospheric pressure on mars is ~ 1% of Earth pressure (just googled that). That's a lot of giant dust storm with not much gasses to move it around, eh wot? The dust must be ultra fine and very light for this to happen.
  • This assumes the dust storm travels over any one of them.

    Maybe another power boast? Or would there be any scientific value of observing one huge storm through the cameras of the rovers?
  • Global Warming? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by TummyX (84871)
    This is ridiculous. The ever increasing power of these storms is a clear example of the bushitler administration's refusal to sign the kyoto protocol. At this rate, how are we going to reach the trended goal of a 0.00108 C temperature drop by 2050?
  • ... But it is overcast here you insensitive clod!

    Actually it really is. It was clear last night until about 2 am. Maybe it is the chaos theory on a universal scale:

    "If there is anything remotely interesting in space happening this night, would it be overcast where I am?" I say yes.
  • No wonder my allergies are bothering me, and I thought it was a seasonal cold.
  • but the word supposed to be begun? began is past tense if i am correct and yeah i've probaby got mistakes too :D

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