Southern spring on Mars began with a "bang" in late June 2001 with a series of large dust storms that in some regions were still occurring each day well into September. By early July, the martian atmosphere was so hazy that opportunities for high resolution imaging of the planet were very limited. This wide angle camera view obtained by the Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera shows a large dust-raising event that occurred on July 8, 2001, as cold, raging winds blew off the frozen south polar cap (bottom) and rushed toward the network of troughs known as Labyrinthus Noctis near the martian equator (center). A second, smaller dust storm can be seen near the top just left of center, northwest of the Ascraeus Mons volcano (uppermost dark elliptical feature). To give a sense of scale, Ascraeus Mons is large enough to nearly cover the state of Washington, home of the famous (and much smaller) Mount St. Helens volcano. Sunlight illuminates the scene from the left, and north is toward the upper right.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, CA and Denver, CO.