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A self-portrait taken by NASA's Curiosity rover taken on June 15, 2018. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On May 30, a dust storm was spotted forming on Mars. It's now officially gone global, blanketing NASA's rovers in dust.

Why this matters: The dust storm is unusually severe, and could knock out Mars' 15-year-old Opportunity rover for good, given the dust is so thick that it isn't allowing sunlight in to charge its batteries. At Opportunity's location, in fact, day has effectively turned into night.

  • The better-known Curiosity rover; however, is nuclear-powered, and is operating normally, according to NASA.

The scope: According to a NASA statement, the storm became a "planet-encircling" dust storm on Tuesday, with dust levels spiking at Gale Crater, where the Curiosity rover is located.

  • The Opportunity rover has not been heard from since June 10, though mission scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in California remain hopeful that the intrepid spacecraft will come out of its slumber and successfully communicate.
  • "Regardless, the project doesn’t expect to hear back from Opportunity until the skies begin to clear over the rover. That doesn’t stop them from listening for the rover every day," NASA said.

Will Opportunity survive? According to NASA, scientists expect Opportunity to stay warm enough, despite the lack of incoming sunlight, that it could survive the long period without battery charging. However, this is space exploration, so there are no guarantees.

The puzzle: Scientists are using this storm as an opportunity to study how Mars' atmosphere works, and how to tell when what appears to be a small dust storm is about to go global.

Timing: Right now, scientists have limited predictability of Martian weather.

  • "We don't have any good idea," says Scott D. Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, speaking specifically about what causes some dust storms to stay localized while others circle the red planet, lingering for months at a time.
  • The ongoing dust storm is similar to one observed by Viking I in 1977, NASA said, but is "more diffuse and patchy" than other global dust events seen in 1971-1972 and 2001.

The bottom line: Scientists are watching, waiting, and hoping that they will both gather crucial data about how Mars' atmosphere functions, and hear back from Opportunity soon.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Sports

Unvaccinated athletes face 21-day quarantine at Beijing Olympics

Logos for the 2022 Winter Olympics at Yanqing Ice Festival in February 2021 in Beijing. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Athletes, staff members and journalists at the 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus will be required to quarantine for three weeks, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) outlined in its newly-published "playbooks."

Why it matters: The quarantine period is longer than the Games themselves, meaning vaccinations or an earlier arrival date will be required to participate in or cover the Games.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
6 hours ago - Economy & Business

FTX CEO predicts more U.S. crypto flight

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

FTX doesn't look much like a company valued at $25 billion. Its new headquarters, located in a sleepy part of The Bahamas, is so nondescript as to not even have a sign. But it does expect to soon have neighbors.

Driving the news: Founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried tells "Axios on HBO" to expect "more and more crypto flight from the states" if the U.S. doesn't soon create a regulatory regime for cryptocurrencies.

Developed countries reveal $100 billion climate finance plan ahead of COP26

Alok Sharma, head of the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, speaks in Paris on Oct. 12. ( Li Yang/China News Service via Getty Images)

After 12 years of fits and starts, industrialized nations on Monday put forward a detailed plan to provide at least $100 billion annually in climate aid to developing countries starting by 2023.

Why it matters: The plan, presented by representatives of Canada and Germany, is aimed at defusing one of the biggest sources of tension at COP26, which is the failure of industrialized nations to follow through on their financial commitments.