In The Field

Phoenix landing: Wow wow wow

As amazing as the pic was of Phoenix in mid-descent, 20 seconds after its parachute deployed, the backdrop might be more specatcular. Alfred McEwen, PI for the HiRise camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, zoomed out to find Heimdall crater looming 20 kilometers in the background. “This really give you an idea of how small Phoenix is in relation to Mars,” he said at a press conference Tuesday morning here in Tucson.

The second picture shows another HiRise photo, 22 hours later, catching Phoenix sitting in its rock-less sea, with its solar arrays unfurled. Much of what Phoenix sits on is impact material ejected from Heimdall. McEwen doesn’t yet understand why bigger rocks are seen inside Heimdall, but so few are found by Phoenix. “Why that is is a mystery right now,” he says, adding that it’s possible that wind has deposited finer material since the Heimdall impact.



Images: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona


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