NASA Reveals What Actually Happens in a Martian Dust Storm

PHOTO: This artists concept illustrates a Martian dust storm, which might also crackle with electricity.NASA
This artists concept illustrates a Martian dust storm, which might also crackle with electricity.

Could a massive dust storm really leave an astronaut stranded on Mars?

Ahead of the release of the movie "The Martian," NASA is giving the lowdown on what weather on the Red Planet is really like. While powerful winds tear through part of the astronauts' camp in the movie, NASA experts said it's unlikely a Martian dust storm could leave any future visitors stranded in real life.

"Even the wind in the largest dust storms likely could not tip or rip apart major mechanical equipment. The winds in the strongest Martian storms top out at about 60 miles per hour, less than half the speed of some hurricane-force winds on Earth," a NASA blog post explained.

Martian dust storms sometimes stir up enough dust to be seen by telescopes on Earth, however the atmosphere on Mars is 1 percent as dense as Earth, making the intensity of the storms different.

"The key difference between Earth and Mars is that Mars’ atmospheric pressure is a lot less," William Farrell, a physicist who has studied Martian dust storms said, according to NASA. "So things get blown, but it’s not with the same intensity."

Mars experiences strong dust storms annually, yet some of these storms are so intense that scientists refer to them as "global dust storms."

There you have it. You can now go see "The Martian," which stars Matt Damon, and then drop this added bit of knowledge from NASA afterward to impress your friends.