The Martian dust storm has now grown so big as to encircle the entire planet, but that hasn't stopped NASA's Curiosity rover.
The rover and the agency's orbiters will continue to collect as much information as possible to help scientists better understand these storms and why some of them expand so rapidly and last a lot longer than others.
But it poses little risk to the Curiosity rover, said Curiosity's engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"We don't have any good idea", says Scott D. Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, leading Curiosity's dust storm investigation.
"Though Curiosity is on the other side of Mars from Opportunity, dust has steadily increased over it, more than doubling over the weekend", NASA noted in the news release. It's supported by fellow rover Curiosity and three orbiters high above: the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the 2001 Mars Odyssey and MAVEN.
At Curiosity's science station in Gale Crater, the rover has measured the thickest sunlight-blocking haze it has encountered since landing in August 2012.
In the animation above, Curiosity is facing the crater rim, about 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) away from where it stands inside the crater.
Dust storms on Mars are actually quite commonplace. Also, the red planet lacks in the system of nature on our planet, some of which stand out to keep storms from being spread globally. Curiosity's cameras are having a hard time, however, as the lack of light means it has to use long exposure times.
New photos from Curiosity show a wall of haze over Gale Crater that is up to eight times thicker than normal for this time on Mars, NASA officials said.
In the image below, two photos taken with Curiosity's Mastcam reveal the robot's recent drilling site, a slab of Martian sedimentary rock dubbed "Duluth", as reported by the Inquisitr. Instead, Curiosity has been sending back photos of what the storm looks like from the ground. The dust storm now circles the whole planet. This enhances the process by helping suspend the dust particles in the air. By contrast, the current storm is bigger than North America and Russian Federation combined, according to Guzewich.
While it's not the great solar eclipse of August 2017, night sky watchers are still going to get a treat over the next few weeks as Mars makes its closest, "Close Approach" to Earth since 2003. The other two orbiters can measure the amount of dust and study how the upper atmosphere behaves.
Storms are common in the spring and summer on Mars, but sometimes they remain small and last only a week. Vegetation also binds the soil, preventing particles from getting airborne, and rain washes whatever gets in the atmosphere back down.