It’s getting a little nippy at night on Mars. The Phoenix lander’s Surface Stereo Imager took this image at 6 a.m. on Sol 79 (August 14, 2008 here on Earth), and a thin layer of water frost is visible on the ground around the landing area. From subsequent images, the frost begins to disappear shortly after this image was taken as the sun rises on the Phoenix landing site.
The sun was about 22 degrees above the horizon when the image was taken, enhancing the detail of the polygons, troughs and rocks around the landing site.
This view is looking east southeast with the lander’s eastern solar panel visible in the bottom lefthand corner of the image. The rock in the foreground is informally named “Quadlings” and the rock near center is informally called “Winkies.”
This false color image has been enhanced to show color variations.
Earlier images taken in June, and put together here in sequence to form a movie, appears to show frost forming on Phoenix’s own legs.
But this isn’t the first time that frost has been imaged on Mars. The Viking lander took the picture below in 1979 of its landing site at Utopia Planetia showing ample amounts of frost on the surface.
In other news, the Phoenix lander also announced on Twitter that it has opened another TEGA oven door in preparation for receiving another sample of Martian soil to “bake and sniff.”