Feeds

Phoenix sees snow above Mars, but it's not sticking

Boffins dreaming of white Xmas at Martian North Pole

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

NASA's Phoenix lander has detected snow falling from Martian clouds, hinting that liquid water may once have been common on the surface of the Red Planet. However, the snow seen by the explorer robot didn't merely turn to rain as it fell - it vapourised, never even reaching the ground at all.

A laser-radar image of snow falling out of the base of Martian clouds

Do robots dream of a white light-blue-shading-to-purple Christmas?

"Nothing like this view has ever been seen on Mars," said Jim Whiteway, of York University in Toronto, speaking of the results obtained by the Meteorological Station on the Phoenix. The Station is Canadian supplied.

It seems that the interplanetary Earthling probe-droid has also found signs of calcium carbonate and possible clay at its landing site in the plains of the Vastitas Borealis, close to the Martian North Pole. Carbonates and clay on Earth normally form in the presence of water.

"We have found carbonate," rejoiced William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA), a major piece of kit in Phoenix's armoury.

"This points toward episodes of interaction with water in the past."

Excited earthling boffinry chiefs hope for yet more revelations from the far-flung polar probe. However they are in a race against the onset of autumnal gloom on the arctic dune seas of the Vastitas Borealis. The solar-powered lander is already well beyond its expected service life.

"For nearly three months after landing, the sun never went below the horizon at our landing site," said Barry Goldstein, NASA interplanetary robo-probo chief.

"Now it is gone for more than four hours each night, and the output from our solar panels is dropping each week. Before the end of October, there won't be enough energy to keep using the robotic arm."

If the probe can just hold on long enough, Whiteway reckons that Phoenix might even detect snow reaching the Red Planet's surface before it finally conks out. The Canadian scientist is plainly hoping for a white Christmas at the Martian North Pole.

There's more from NASA here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.