Phoenix in the Land of Mars’ Midnight Sun

This panorama mosaic of images was taken by the Surface Stereo Imager on board NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander. This mosaic documents the midnight sun during several days of the mission, from Sol 46, or the 46th day of the mission to Sol 56 (that would be to July 12 – 22, 2008 here on Earth.) The foreground and sky images were taken on Sol 54, when the lander pulled an all-nighter to coordinate work with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The solar images were taken between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., local solar time, on the different nights of the 11 sol period. During this period, the sun’s path got slightly lower over the northern horizon, causing the lack of smoothness to the curve. This pan captures the polar nature of the Phoenix mission in its similarity to time lapse pictures taken above the Arctic Circle on Earth.

The latest activities of the lander has brought it closer to analyzing a sample of icy soil in the TEGA oven.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Phoenix used its robotic arm to scrape the top of the hard layer in the trench called “Snow White.”

“We are monitoring changes between the scrapes,” said Doug Ming of NASA Johnson Space Center. “It appears that there is fairly rapid sublimation of some of the ice after scraping exposes fresh material, leaving a thin layer of soil particles that had been mixed with the ice. There’s a color change from darker to bluer to redder. We want to characterize that on Sol 58 to know what to expect when we scrape just before collecting the next sample.”

The science team is preparing to quickly collect a sample from the hard layer of Snow White and deliver it to one of the eight ovens of Phoenix’s Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA). Doors to the oven have been opened to receive the sample. TEGA will “bake and sniff” the samples to analyze the composition of the soil and ice.

On Wednesday the team also checked out the heater on TEGA is working properly, to verify that pressure sensors can be warmed enough to operate properly early in the Mars morning.

“For the next sample, we will be operating the instrument earlier in the morning than we have before,” said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for TEGA. “It will be almost the coldest part of the day, because we want to collect the sample cold and deliver it cold.”

On the day when Phoenix will deliver the next sample to TEGA, the team plans to have lander activities begin about three hours earlier than the usual start time of about 9 a.m. local solar time.

On Thursday, one set of imaging commands will check a northwestern portion of the horizon repeatedly during early afternoon to see whether any dust devils can be seen. This will be the first systematic check by Phoenix for dust devils. The Mars Rover Spirit was able to image sequences of dust devils in its location, south of Mars’ equator.

Original News Source: Phoenix News

5 Replies to “Phoenix in the Land of Mars’ Midnight Sun”

  1. What are the main issues that will cause Phoenix to die when Winter comes?

    Is there no chance at all that we might have her back come Spring?

  2. The mission has been a success in my opinion – landing…, fairly constant communications ( both stepping stones ) -, although the mission objectives have yet to be met.. , I’m still impatiently waiting for a good water analysis.. I hope we will get it.. I really hope it.. We need to take the next step.

  3. Phoenix is expected to die because of the extreme cold, lack of sunlight and getting covered in carbon dioxide frost. The probe might survive and recover once spring comes, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    According to the official website, they’re not even going to try to contact Phoenix in spring, but I think they should. What have they got to lose?

  4. Nice. Somebody read my criticism and then they published a clear photo. And NASA also published an even better photo. It pays to points things out. However the new NASA picture has its left side cut off.

    I even received an email from a NASA fan I want to share with you:

    > You made a less than enlightened comment on Universe Today.  The folks at NASA are well aware of polarized light 3D technology.  

    I was sure of that they at NASA are well aware of the advances otherwise they will not be ruling the roost. That is precisely the crux of the matter. Having all the most advanced technology of the world. What I fail to understand is that they are not being able to come up with a simple public relation policy, thus creating all kinds of weird speculation, conspiracy theories, etc.

    A simple system of double pictures, as in a toy like View Master, can give fantastic 3-D panoramic and close up views. If the View Master system can be upgraded to digital, the benefits are endless. 

    You don’t even need polarizing glasses or silver screens! You can sell the View Master discs with which you have the best views.

    You can check the latest at Apple stereoscopic devices. Even with an old, old stereoscope to peek and naked  you can obtain better results without complicated cameras. There is not problem there. You only need to connect the dots. And NASA does not.

    > The problem is that it takes a matched set of projectors, polarizing filters, polarizing glasses, and a silver screen to deliver an image.  You may have not realized, but people view web content on computer monitors not in 3D movie theaters.  

    How stupid of me! You don’t say! A view master toy costs less than $5. The way you put it is an excuse for never to have pictures of Mars seen in high resolution shown in an IMAX movie.

    > This fact made NASA’s choices few.  Regarding the quality of the images, when you are able to send an unmanned rover to another planet, receive 3D images from said rover, and the images are of better quality than the images that NASA has produced, feel free to email me.

    Your sarcastic answer reflects the arrogant NASA attitude. I know NASA has the means no individual has, except to prove that you are doing some questionable selection of what to give to the public and what not to publish. Most of the photos given to the public taken by the Phoenix mission stink. I am sure you have more than those photos in stock. Why? That I don’t know.

    However, it does not change the fact that  NASA having super high resolution pictures of Mars as those of Io, for instance, they choose the crummiest pieces to show to the public. This latest one was unbelievably crude. See a minor enhancement, how it changes everything.

    I have been checking this path for a long time and you are not going to the deny the cut and paste job done on the picture of the so called COUCH take. Why? Are NASA paster sloppy? Or they did it on purpose? I cannot think of any other option.



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