Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Phoenix Probe Lands Safely on Mars

A small science probe blazed through the salmon-colored skies of Mars on Sunday, touching down on a frozen desert at the planet's north pole to search for water and assess conditions for sustaining life, NASA officials said.

The spacecraft, known as Phoenix, landed after a do-or-die plunge through the planet's thin atmosphere. It marked the first time that a spacecraft had successfully landed at one of the planet's polar regions.

One note. The colour pictures you see from such missions (see left) are false colour images. I don't know why, but NASA continues to publish pictures that obscure the BLUE sky of Mars, presenting the red/salmon sky as the accurate representation (see here for some background on the issue).

Without any doubt Mars has a blue sky in the same way that earth has a blue sky- light scattering due the molecules that make up the atmosphere. Although the atmosphere of Mars is thinner the effect is the same. It is only when there are dust storms that the sky should turn red.

What we are getting is not an accurate representation of the planet, although the pictures are nevertheless spectacular.

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, May 27th, 2008.]

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