[FPSPACE] Reports on Mars habitability and falling snow from Phoenix

LARRY KLAES ljk4 at msn.com
Sun Jul 5 12:40:14 EDT 2009

July 2, 2009 
Perchlorates and Water Make for Potential Habitable Environment on Mars
Written by Nancy Atkinson 
Caption: This mosaic assembled from Phoenix images show the spacecraft's three landing legs. Splotches of Martian material on the landing leg strut at left could be liquid saline-water. Click for larger version on Spaceflightnow. com Credit: Kenneth Kremer, Marco Di Lorenzo, NASA/JPL/UA/Max Planck Institute and 
Spaceflightnow.com. Used by permission
Scientists say that the Arctic region studied by Phoenix lander may be a favorable environment for microbes. Just-right chemistry and periods where thin films of liquid water form on the surface could make for a habitable setting. 
"Not only did we find water ice, as expected, but the soil chemistry and minerals we observed lead us to believe this site had a wetter and warmer climate in the recent past — the last few million years — and could again in the future," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson.
The Phoenix science team released four papers today after spending months interpreting the data returned by the lander during its 5-month mission.
Full article here, plus a cool-looking mosaic:

July 2, 2009 
Phoenix Lander Team: It Snows at Night on Mars
Written by Nancy Atkinson 
It snows on Mars. This occurs, at least in the northern arctic region where the Phoenix lander set up camp in 2008. Science teams from Phoenix were able to observe water-ice clouds in the Martian atmosphere and precipitation that fell to the ground at night and sublimate into water in the morning. 
James Whiteway and his colleagues say that clouds and precipitation on Mars play a role in the exchange of water between the ground and the atmosphere and when conditions are right, snow falls regularly on Mars.
“Before Phoenix we did not know whether precipitation occurs on Mars,” Whiteway said. “We knew that the polar ice cap advances as far south as the Phoenix site in winter, but we did not know how the water vapor moved from the atmosphere to ice on the ground. Now we know that it does snow, and that this is part of the hydrological cycle on Mars.”
Phoenix landed at the north arctic region on Mars (68.22°N, 234.25°E) on May 25th, 2008. On Mars, this was just before the summer solstice. Phoenix operated for 5 months, and was able to observe conditions as the seasons changed from summer to winter, giving science teams an unprecedented look at the planet's changing weather patterns, including frost and precipitation.
Full article here:
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