Dust particles can also affect Martian climate by absorbing solar radiation, resulting in lower temperatures at the ground level and higher ones in the atmosphere. Image credit: MSSS/JPL/NASA
The dust that coats much of the surface of Mars originates largely from a single 1000-kilometre (620-mile)-long geological formation near the Red Planet’s equator, scientists have found.
A study published in the journal Nature Communications found a chemical match between dust in the Martian atmosphere and the surface feature, called the Medusae Fossae Formation (MFF).
“Mars wouldn’t be nearly this dusty if it wasn’t for this one enormous deposit that is gradually eroding over time and polluting the planet, essentially,” says Kevin Lewis, an assistant professor of Earth and planetary science at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, United States.
In the film The Martian, a dust storm leads to a series of events that strands an astronaut played by actor Matt Damon. As in the movie, dust on Mars has caused severe problems for real missions, including the Spirit Mars exploration rover. The fine, powdery stuff can get into expensive instruments and obscure solar panels needed to power equipment.
On Earth, dust is separated from soft rock formations by forces ...