S17-42-38 (50 mm)
Flight 41G, 27.5N, 54.9E, 10:18:31 GMT, 8 Oct 1984
Local dust storms in desert regions have been described, in fact and fiction, for many decades. Their dramatic intensities are certainly well known to desert inhabitants and were a bane to the armies flogging across North Africa in World War II. Yet, the frequency of these storms, created by sudden strong local winds, was not appreciated by most scientists until observations began to come from astronauts. Even though oceanographers have recognized for a century the contribution of dust to sediments on the sea floor, the global extent of this contribution was unknown.
Throughout Flight 41G, in October 1984, dust storms were observed continuously in the Middle East and over North Africa. Typically, the most intense storms were over the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. On their second day in space, the crew of the Challenger first photographed dust spreading from Iran across the Persian Gulf to Bahrain and beyond. The dust layer was thin enough there to permit the crew to see eddies on the waters of the gulf standing out in the sun's reflection, as shown in the picture above. Less than a minute later, a much stronger sand storm blew a thick, dense mass of dust over the Gulf of Oman, so thick, in fact, that through the next day the waters there were obscured to the space crew (see picture on page 61).
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