A new animation helps us visualize just how massive the Mars dust storm is. This storm, which obscured the Sun and resulted in NASA’s Opportunity rover going into a deep sleep, at one point was “only” as big as North America. In the weeks following that detail, NASA continued to update the public on this storm’s size, using countries as a reference. A new image, though, shows us exactly how much of the Red Planet is covered by this storm.
The image above is part of animation created by astronomer and astrophotographer Damian Peach, who shared the GIF in a tweet:
The dust storm has now reached global proportions, obscuring the planet’s surface under a hazy blanket of red dust. According to updates from NASA over the past several weeks, the storm started toward the end of May, ultimately spanning the entire Red Planet by June’s third week. The storm continues and it’s unclear when it will end.
It’s possible that local dust storms will form after the global dust storm ends, prolonging the amount of time it takes for Mars’ landscape to become visible again. NASA continues to operate its Curiosity rover on the planet, which a different power source than Opportunity, an older rover unable to recharge due to the lack of sunlight.
Last month, NASA revealed that Opportunity rover had entered a deep sleep mode in an effort to maintain the required minimum amount of energy needed to keep the rover operational. The device’s mission clock will wake up the rover occasionally to get an update on the power level, then the rover will go back to sleep until recharging is possible.