Friday, June 06, 2008

Microscopic view of Mars dust grains

Apparently the Phoenix probe is equipped with a microscope. Shown here is the closest image ever of a Martian dust grain. This picture is just a test run, however, as Phoenix only took photos of dust grains that fell on its surface. For the real thing, Phoenix will analyze Martian soil samples.

From the Phoenix team press release:

A microscope on NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander has taken images of dust and sand particles with the greatest resolution ever returned from another planet.

The mission's Optical Microscope observed particles that had fallen onto an exposed surface, revealing grains as small as one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.

"We have images showing the diversity of mineralogy on Mars at a scale that is unprecedented in planetary exploration," said Michael Hecht of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena. He is the lead scientist for Phoenix's Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) instrument suite.