Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Phoenix Lander may have found ice

In an article from New Scientist that Shaun sent in The Mars polar lander Phoenix, while extending a trench, uncovered a bright white substance that could very well be ice. The other possibility is a form of salt, which in either case supports the theory that water was once very abundant on Mars. The lander's robotic arm uncovered the white substance after further excavating sites called Dodo and Baby Bear to create one large trench. Periodic photos will be taken of the area to document if the exposed layer changes. Evaporation or frost, of the white area, will be a strong indicator that liquid water once pooled in the trough between polygons and then froze.

****Update as of 6/20/08*****
I have been hearing a lot of conflicting data, but Shaun Saunders sends me an article from MSNBC. It seems that the white substance that was the center of some confusion is indeed some form of ice. That conclusion was reached when scientists viewed updates of the trench cut by the Phoenix's scoop. New pictures from the site show a marked decrease in the amount of whitish material that can be viewed in the frame. According to the new article: Initial chemical analysis was inconclusive, but scientists said they could tell by seeing if the material disappeared after exposure to the thin Martian atmosphere. When scientists compared Sunday's pictures with imagery captured early Thursday, dice-sized crumbs of the white material were clearly missing.

<View the before and after shots to see the difference>

No comments: