Aldus hoofdonderzoeker Peter Smith, die toevoegt dat “there had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can’t do that.” Crumbs of bright material initially photographed in the trench later vanished, meaning they must have been frozen water that vaporized after being exposed, Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said in a statement.
Phoenix Mars is studying whether the arctic region of the Red Planet could be habitable. The probe is using its robotic arm to dig up soil samples, and scientists hope it will find frozen water. However, an initial soil sample heated in a science instrument failed to yield evidence of water.
The bright material was seen in the bottom of a trench dubbed “Dodo-Goldilocks” that Phoenix enlarged on June 15. Several of the bright crumbs were gone when the spacecraft looked into the trench again early Thursday, NASA said. Phoenix’s arm, meanwhile, encountered a hard surface while digging another trench Thursday and scientists were hopeful of uncovering an icy layer, the space agency said. That trench is called “Snow White 2.”
The arm went into a “holding position” after three attempts to dig further, which is expected when it the reaches a hard surface, NASA said. In 2002, the orbiting Mars Odyssey detected hints of a vast store of ice below the surface of Mars’ polar regions. The arctic terrain where Phoenix touched down has polygon shapes in the ground similar to those found in Earth’s permafrost regions. The patterns on Earth are caused by seasonal expansion and shrinking of underground ice.
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