It’s been less than a month since the NASA Phoenix Lander touched down on Mars, and the mission’s already made an important discovery.
Evidence that Mars is home to or at least has at some point contained water has been mounting for years, and last week it was finally confirmed. Phoenix unearthed some interesting white patches just below the polar surface and cameras caught them “dissapearing” after four days of being drenched in sunlight. Turns out this vanishing act was actually the water sublimating from solid to gas. Water can’t exist as a liquid on the martian surface due to the low atmospheric pressure, and the site is too warm for the patches to be carbon dioxide.
The sublimating ice is shown below (NASA image)
The Phoenix project is a joint venture between NASA JPL and the University of Arizona. It’s main goals are to determine the history of water on Mars and to find any habitable zones on the polar region of the planet. Expect more information in the coming weeks as Phoenix digs deeper. Next up? Soil samples!