This global map of Mars shows a growing dust storm as of June 6, 2018. The map was produced by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The blue dot indicates the approximate location of Opportunity.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Science operations for NASA’s Opportunity rover have been temporarily suspended as it waits out a growing dust storm on Mars.

The storm now spans more than 7 million square miles (18 million square kilometers) — an area greater than North America — and includes Opportunity’s current location at Perseverance Valley.

Opportunity photo taken by rover’s Front Hazcam Sol 5104.
Credit: NASA/JPL

Atmospheric opacity

The swirling dust has raised the atmospheric opacity, or “tau,” in the valley in the past few days, blotting out sunlight. The Opportunity rover uses solar panels to provide power and to recharge its batteries. The rover’s power levels had dropped significantly by Wednesday, June 6, requiring the Mars machinery to shift to minimal operations.

Opportunity image acquired by rover’s Navigation Camera Sol 5083.
Credit: NASA/JPL

Opportunity is in its 15th year; the team has operated the rover for more than 50 times longer than originally planned.

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