Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ice on Mars? !

I was wondering, one week ago, just how momentous the landing of Phoenix on Mars might turn out to be.

The news today suggests that it could be better than anyone hoped.

Could there really be a layer of ice, basically a frozen lake, directly under the lander? That picture is simply amazing. (The JPL new release about it can be read here.) It not only looks like dirt was blown off of the ice by the lander engines, the one area off to the back right, also seen in an earlier image, almost looks like it might be meltwater running off from the exposed area.

By the way, use this link to the JPL picture archive to keep up on the images released to the press. In addition, Astroprof has had several good articles about Mars and the landing in the past week. Check them out.


Philip said...

That's not ice. It's just white rock. NASA is too optimistic.

damask said...

I'm not sure that it proves anything. We know the polar ice caps are partly ice (partly dry ice).

Dust gets blown around the surface of mars as well so it would make sense that some of it near the poles are covered up.

The Martian ice cap expands during the winter months, its believed because of the cold, but its possible that dust also plays a role.

This also doesn't prove much about permafrost lying deeper beneath the surface either.

The more exciting thing is that its available as an object of study for the lander.

Doctor Pion said...

If you don't think this is more than an "object of study", you must be pretty jaded by space exploration. I don't think we knew it might take the form of a lake just below the surface. The quantity of water there is everything as far as living on Mars is concerned, not to mention the future funding of interplanetary research and travel.

The temperature there is much too warm for solid CO2, so we should see rapid changes over time due to sublimation if that were what was being seen.

Todays picture shows more detail from another angle, with holes and surface details that would make it an extremely interesting rock if it is not actually ice.