Take a look at this image sent back from the Phoenix lander. On Friday, Phoenix scientist Ray Arvidson said there may be ice directly under the Phoenix lander, exposed in the blast zone by the retrorockets used for Phoenix’s soft landing. Friday’s image showed a small portion of the exposed area that looks brighter and smoother than the surrounding soil. On Saturday, Sol 5 for Phoenix on Mars, a new image shows a greater portion of the area under the lander. Scientists say the abundance of excavated smooth and level surfaces adds evidence to a hypothesis that the underlying material is an ice table covered by a thin blanket of soil. This is just what the Phoenix mission was hoping to find, and how incredible to land directly over your goal.
The bright-looking surface material in the center, where the image is partly overexposed, may not be inherently brighter than the foreground material in shadow. But the scientists are calling this area “Holy Cow.” Reportedly (via Emily at the Planetary Society) that’s exactly the phrase exclaimed when this image was returned. More pictures of this feature will be imaged using different exposures in an effort to determine if this really is ice.
The other interesting aspect of this image is that the retrorocket nozzles are visible right at the top of the image.
We’ll keep you posted when there’s more information and data available on the area under the lander.
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Sources: Phoenix, Planetary Blog