Greetings from The Martian Arctic — Wish You Were Here!
Lynn M. Savage
When the first images from the Phoenix mission to Mars were sent to Earth, they arrived at the European Space Agency’s Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. For more than two months, the lander and its suite of imagers and optical and atomic force microscopes have confirmed the presence of water ice on the rusty planet and have sparked people’s imagination once again that some form of life may have — or still does — exist on our neighbour world.
This panorama mosaic of images taken by the Surface Stereo Imager records the midnight sun during days 46 to 56 of the mission. Each day, the sun’s path became slightly lower over the northern horizon, causing the lack of smoothness in the curve. Because of its similarity to time-lapse pictures taken above the Arctic Circle on Earth, the panoramic image captures the polar nature of the Phoenix mission. Courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University.
The Surface Stereo Imager aboard the Phoenix lander on Mars imaged trenches dug as of July 31, 2008 (dubbed “Dodo-Goldilocks” and “Snow White”), as well as two more areas designated for future digging (“Cupboard” and “Neverland”). The outlines show the anticipated reach of the lander’s robotic arm (RA). Courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University.
(Left) A close-up image of the trench named “Snow White” was acquired after a series of scrapings by the lander’s robotic arm on the 58th Martian day after the Phoenix landed. The trench is about 9 in. wide, 24 in. long and 2 in. deep. (Right) Two days later, the lander used a rasp on the back of the robotic arm’s scoop to break through a hard layer at the trench bottom. Most of the holes left by a four-by-four array of rasp placements are visible in the centre of the approximately true colour image. The scoop removed about 3 cm3 of material for analysis. Courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University.
Earlier in the mission, the Surface Stereo Imager found lumps of ice in the lower-left corner of the “Dodo-Goldilocks” trench. The lumps subsequently sublimated over the course of four days, ultimately disappearing altogether. Courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University.
- Pertaining to optics and the phenomena of light.
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