Martian dust storm makes presence known in Gale Crater

The global dust storm now blanketing Mars that has at least temporarily sidelined the solar-powered Opportunity rover also is dimming the sky above Gale Crater 8,400 kilometres (5,200 miles) away where the Curiosity rover is hard at work. Curiosity is powered with electricity generated by the heat of decaying plutonium and the dust storm is not expected to have any major impact on its operations. But the sky above Curiosity has darkened considerably since the storm began two weeks ago and now has an opacity, or tau, of 8.0 – the highest reading ever recorded by the rover. The last measurement of opacity by Opportunity was a record 11-plus, so thick accurate measurements can no longer be made.

This “selfie” by Curiosity is made up of images taken on 15 June as the rover parked near a drill site on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp. The rim of Gale Crater in the background is obscured by dust suspended in the Martian atmosphere.

A selfie taken by the Curiosity Mars rover on 15 June shows a hazy sky over Gale Crater as a global dust storm sweeps across the red planet. Image: NASA