back to article Phoenix spies probable Martian water ice

NASA's Phoenix Mars lander has spotted the sublimation of probable water ice in a trench excavated by its robotic arm by comparing two photos taken on the 21st and 25th days of the mission, aka Sols 20 and 24 (15 and 19 June): Phoenix images showing disappearance of probable water ice The images, captured by the lander's …


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  1. Patrick Ernst


    That's totally cool....

  2. Senor Beavis

    Holy crap

    Screw the ice discovery - what ungodly animal made those rectangular footprints so close to the lander? YOUR CAMERA NEEDS TO LOOK UP NOT DOWN

    [Nurse? Is it time for my meds?]

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Theres no science like bad science


    I thought they sent instruments there to look for and detect water vapour in one of their ovens. That didnt show any, but now theyre saying "Its not there any more so it must have been water ice." Bollocks.

    I want them to find water as much as the next man, but surely they can come up with something better than that? Its like playing hide and seek with a 3 year old. It could be ice cream for all they know. Until their clever little oven says its water, then it aint, and theyre discrediting the people who built this machine by coming up with drivel like this.

  4. Gerard Krupa


    Agreed. Got to love people who don't make the distinction between evidence and proof.

    Mine's the one that must be made of ice 'cos it's now gone from the cloakroom.

  5. Dave

    What sort of a scale is that?

    On the pics, a little tiny bar is labelled 2/3" . I'm guessing that this is the scale of the photograph and it means that the line is two-thirds of an inch long.

    What sort of damn fool scale is that? Not 1 inch, not 12 inches, not 1 cm, not 30cm, not 100cm, but two-thirds of an inch? Yeah, I can understand some advanced cultures wishing to show off their advancedness by having Base12, Base16 and Base8 weights and measurement.

    But two-thirds of BaseX number is just the intellectual equivalent of going up to any nearby Marvin's and amanFrom's and begging for an earth-shattering Kaboom.

  6. Luther Blissett

    @AC 1012

    > theyre discrediting the people who built this machine by coming up with drivel like this.

    Period after "the people" would suffice.

  7. Frank

    Not quite scientific

    Based on two pictures, all they can do is hope that it's ice (i.e. the solid phase of water).

    Maybe it's frozen carbon dioxide (a.k.a dry ice - depends on surface temperature and pressure).

    Maybe its not ice but dice, rolled there by some Martian kids who were playing in their back yard, until they were crushed and killed by a landing alien spacecraft named Phoenix? We're in big trouble now!

  8. Tom

    why didn't they...

    Upon spotting the ever slippery martian ice, toss the soil sample they had, and re-sample the same patch to collect the ice.

    Also, Luther, your jibberish suggesting the AC add unspecified increments of passing time inserted after a snippet of text elludes my sensibilities...

  9. Gordon Pryra

    They better hope its ice

    Just in case, I for one, welcome our new Rock Men overlords!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ice, but what kind?

    I assume that the NASA scientists have ruled out CO2 ice? I haven't seen anything to confirm that in the news releases though..

    It too is white, shiny and sublimes at Mars surface conditions.

  11. The Prevaricator

    maybe some weed would help...

    You get a great three-dimensional effect by going cross-eyed whilst looking at these pictures...

    I'm sure our martian overlords would be mightily impressed by the output of our planet's top scientists having a base scale of 2/3 of an inch. Wonderful.

  12. Anon


    If you look at NASA's pictures, it seems just as likely that small creatures came along and took away the light-coloured bits or covered them with dust - lots of little bits get moved!

  13. Robert Grant Silver badge

    Echoing the above

    Unless ice is the only thing to sublimate in those conditions in sunlight, this may be worth a rethink.

  14. Melonfish


    This finally explains where all the white dog poo went.... The Martians stole it!

  15. Richard Silver badge

    All we can see from the photos

    is that there was more "white stuff" in Photo A than in Photo B.

    That white stuff could be anything - frozen CO2, frozen H2O, or even a white powder that's blowing away.

    - Maybe NASA have accidentally broken into someone's stash! Watch out - the coke addicts will be after Phoenix now!

  16. John Robson Silver badge

    Too hot for dry ice

    NASA are of course being more conservative with their announcements, but we all know that a media outlet can't be expected to evaluate evidence.

    It looks most likely to be H2O(s), in that the correct conditions exist for sublimation, and the previous earth sample (unexpectedly clumpy) suddenly become unclumpy, that's plausible sublimation to me.

    Of course only plausible, not proved.

  17. GrahamT

    A few odd things here

    "As soon as the sun hit that material, it disappeared" but it isn't in the sun. The shadows on the stereo picture are identical, so either the pictures were taken very closely together in time, or exactly one integer value of Mars days apart. I suspect they were taken one day apart, so it was in the sun at some stage, but we only have their word for it being the sun that caused the blocks to disappear. Maybe it is AmanFromMars messing with their minds by moving things around.

    Also 2/3"? This is wierd even for septic scientists. If it had been 4/5" I would suspect a little metric (20 mms) to imperial (20/25.4 ~= 4/5) conversion, but why not 1" anyway? It's only a line added to the picture - unless it was already on the surface of Mars and disappeared with the blocks!

    Are they telling us that one Martian inch = 2/3 Earth inches, therefore the Martians are only 4 foot tall? We should be told the truth.

  18. GrahamT

    Whoops, should have looked at the headings...

    The pictures were taken 4 days apart, 20 Sols - 24 Sols, not one day.

  19. Luther Blissett


    Period aka full stop. I cannot decode your "elludes" whatever deconstruction I try, but let me know if it continues to elude your sensibilities.

  20. Kurt Guntheroth

    why manned missions are important

    The best science we can do with a camera is to say, "See, it disappeared, so it must be ice." If we had a guy standing there, he could just reach down, pluck up just the white bit, and drop it in the analytical oven. Case closed in about 15 minutes.

    Only we need to know the ice is there first, because we want to use it to make rocket fuel for the return trip. No ice, no return. Oops. There won't be any fake science on this one.

  21. Kevin Kitts
    IT Angle

    When they say ice, they need to be specific...

    water ice, CO2 ice, methane ice, italian ice...c'mon, be more specific, please.

    And didn't they have a mass spectrometer on-board to tell which kind of ice it is?

    *scratches head in dismay*

    IT?, because there should be two sets of press releases, one that's ultra-specific for us scientist-types, and one for laymen.

  22. James Gibbons
    Black Helicopters


    "Until their clever little oven says its water"

    It will be interesting to see if they can break the ice up small enough to get it past the screens into the oven! I think they made a major engineering goof with those screens because the soil and ice doesn't break up easily.

  23. Acme Fixer

    It amazes me

    how clueless some (supposedly intelligent) people can be.

    Suppose the pics were taken at 1200 pixels, and the 1" mark was actually an inch, but someone scaled them down to 800 pixels. Just to be thorough, he relabeled the 1" mark 2/3". Duh...

    OTOH, the speculation is cool. Just as long as it doesn't get too far out of hand...

  24. Bounty


    Well they could at least drop a bit of the white stuff in front of their microscope on that thing. Then they can at least make observations of it's structure to determine what it is.

  25. Kanhef

    re possibly not ice

    While this isn't absolute proof it's water ice, it is pretty strong evidence. There are a limited number of chemicals that are consistent with their observations. It's not a mineral salt, it's not frozen helium, it's not cocaine being snorted by lilliputian martian pixies. By visual appearance, it could be carbon dioxide ice, but that may not be possible at the atmospheric pressure and temperature there.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    so let me get this right

    Someone spent obscene amounts of money and time building a little buggy that can be sent to mars to dig a little whole, and take pictures 4 days apart? Wow, their's ice on mars, who'd have thought with those big white things at either end that resemble our own polar ice caps?

    I know exploration is important, but this all seems like a big fuss over nothing,I mean they can only say "we think it's ice", how many billions have you spent to get the "we think it's ice" answer? Think of all the people that money could have feed. Wankers

  27. Dave Walker

    Tiny Power, Tiny Ovens

    @James Gibbons

    Unfortunately the ovens have to be tiny, they need to heat up to over 1,000 degrees to do some of the necessary chemistry. Because solar power is scarce at the latitude of the lander that means making them very small. The screens are to make sure that samples are the correct size.

    The good news is that the (Canadian) arm is very advanced and can dig, scrape, and shake so that there are many options for getting small shavings of the material.

    (The flame but it has to be very tiny)


  28. Charlie van Becelaere

    The 2/3" Controversy

    Rant all you will, all you decimal chauvinists, but as those of us in the know know, Martian (or Barsoomian, if you prefer) biology expresses in three-fingered extremities. Thus, 2/3 is as rational a figure to the Martian as 6/10 is to most humans (or 6/9 to my cousin who lost a finger in an industrial accident).

    Laugh and ridicule if you will, but I for one welcome our new three-fingered Martian Overlords.

    Dead Vulture

    Low Pressure, Yet Wheres FREE Hydrogen?

    It is true at such Low Atmospheric pressure Water Ice evaporates at much lower temperature than Earth. Yet does viewing & temperature match known tests for H2O in Low Pressure Chamber?

    Its LACK of FREE hydrogen, also due to LOW Pressure that sweeps it away & Off Planet, that makes Me still wonderous.,Available Hydrogen is Locked into Rock, apparently.

    Also I wonder about that Scummy stuff left behind. Could it be CO2 residue with soil?


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