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Click to enlargeMars Perfect Storm Photo

Buy the Mars Perfect Storm space photo. High quality Hubble picture, slide, or Duratrans backlit transparency. NASA photograph H2001-31b . Wide variety of sizes.
Click to see selection as Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) - October 17, 2001


(see H2001-24 "Best View of Mars" for comparison image) Two dramatically different faces of our Red Planet neighbor appear in these comparison images showing how a global dust storm engulfed Mars with the onset of Martian spring in the Southern Hemisphere. When NASA's Hubble SpaceTelescope imaged Mars in June, the seeds of the storm were caught brewing in the giant Hellas Basin (oval at 4 o'clock position on disk) and in another storm at the northern polar cap.

When Hubble photographed Mars in early September (this view), the storm had already been raging across the planet for nearly two months obscuring all surface features. The fine airborne dust blocks a significant amount of sunlight from reaching the Martian surface. Because the airborne dust is absorbing this sunlight, it heats the upper atmosphere. Seasonal global Mars dust storms have been observed from telescopes for over a century, but this is the biggest storm ever seen in the past several decades.

Mars looks gibbous in this photograph because it is 26 million miles farther from Earth than in the left (H2001-24) photo (though the pictures have been scaled to the same angular size), and our viewing angle has changed. The left picture was taken when Mars was near its closest approach to Earth for 2001 (an event called opposition); at that point the disk of Mars was fully illuminated as seen from Earth because Mars was exactly opposite the Sun.

Both images are in natural color, taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.

October 11, 2001
Credit: NASA, James Bell (Cornell Univ.), Michael Wolff (Space Science Inst.), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)


H2001-31b
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