Mystery Photo

What in the world is it?

Mystery Photo

Don’t peek at the answer until you’ve given this a good try! Then, scroll down a bit and the truth will be revealed to you.

(Image Credit: NASAJPL/MSSS)

Is this a satellite image of an ice storm somewhere in the Northeast United States, or did someone sneeze on a windshield? Well, it’s neither. Believe it or not, you’re looking at a wide angle image of a small dust storm on Mars. The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft (which is currently orbiting Mars) took this image on December 7, 2003. At the time the small dust storm and several other smaller dust plumes were billowing up from the dusty plains of a region called Chryse. The spacecraft images this region several times a week because it is frequently the site of small dust storms and extremely large dust devils. The image covers an area approximately 125 km (78 mi) wide and is illuminated from the left/lower left.

Actually, the first person to announce this storm was an amateur astronomer — Donald C. Parker of Coral Gables, Florida. His discovery observation showed the dust cloud first over the eastern end of Valles Marineris — the Grand Canyon of mars. It then moved southwest, and grew in strength.