The massive Mars dust storm is starting to die down

By Mike Wall
July 31, 2018, 2:34:57 PM EDT

The dust is finally beginning to clear on Mars, but it'll probably still be a while before NASA's sidelined Opportunity rover can phone home.

A global dust storm has enshrouded Mars for more than a month, plunging the planet's surface into perpetual darkness. That's complicated life significantly for the solar-powered Opportunity, which has apparently put itself into a sort of hibernation; the rover hasn't contacted its controllers since June 10.

A long-awaited dawn seems to be on the horizon, however.

mars dust

This frame from an animation created by astrophotographer Damian Peach shows how a global dust storm has overtaken Mars in the summer of 2018. Credit: Damian Peach

"It's the beginning of the end for the planet-encircling dust storm on Mars," NASA officials wrote in an Opportunity mission update yesterday (July 26).

Scientists studying the storm "say that, as of Monday, July 23, more dust is falling out than is being raised into the planet's thin air," agency officials added. "That means the event has reached its decay phase, when dust-raising occurs in ever smaller areas, while others stop raising dust altogether."

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