Phoenix Lander sees snow falling on Mars

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. space agency says its Phoenix Mars Lander has detected snow falling from Martian clouds, vaporizing before reaching the planet’s surface.

And the National Aeronautics and Space Administration says that, plus soil test experiments, have proven evidence of past interaction between minerals and liquid water — both processes that occur on Earth.

“A laser instrument designed to gather knowledge of how the atmosphere and surface interact on Mars detected snow from clouds about 2.5 miles above the spacecraft’s landing site,” NASA said, adding data shows the snow vaporizing before reaching the ground.

“Nothing like this view has ever been seen on Mars,” said Jim Whiteway, of Canada’s York University, the lead scientist for the Canadian-supplied Meteorological Station on Phoenix. “We’ll be looking for signs that the snow may even reach the ground.”

Since landing May 25, Phoenix has also confirmed a hard subsurface layer at its far-northern site contains water-ice. NASA said determining whether that ice ever thaws will help answer whether the environment there has been favorable for life, a key aim of the mission.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International

from Arcamax Science and Technology e-Zine, 10-01-2008

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