The line drawn on this map shows the route that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has driven. Opportunity has been working on Mars since January 2004, at sites within the Meridiani Planum region. (Photo : NASA)
A dust storm is gathering strength on Mars, according to NASA's latest readings.
Discovery News reports that the first signs of the tempest appeared on November 10th, and that the event will have repercussions for the rovers which now trek across the Red Planet's surface.
NASA chief Mars scientists Rich Zurek notes, "For the first time since the Viking missions of the 1970s, we are studying a regional dust storm both from orbit and with a weather station on the surface. One thing we want to learn is why do some Martian dust storms get to this size and stop growing, while others this size keep growing and go global."
While the storm will decrease visibility for the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers, the environmental occurrence provides scientists with an unexpected opportunity to gather useful information about the planet.
"[The regional dust storm] has covered a fairly extensive region with its dust haze and it is in a part of the planet where some regional storms have grown into global dust hazes," says Zurek.
Discovery explains that the Curiosity rover has registered a "drop in air pressure and slightly increased nighttime temperatures halfway around the planet," while the Opportunity has noticed "a slight drop in atmospheric clarity."
Curiosity's ultimate destination is Glenelg, which marks an intersection of three different types of terrain, according to NASA.
More Curiosity updates to follow as they become available.