Feeds

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

Boffins dreaming of white Xmas at Martian North Pole

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.