Vastitas Borealis - Surface

Surface

Unlike some the sites visited by the Viking and Pathfinder landers, nearly all the rocks near the Phoenix landing site on Vastitas Borealis are small. For about as far as the camera can see, the land is flat, but shaped into polygons. The polygons are between 2–3 m in diameter and are bounded by troughs that are 20 to 50 cm deep. These shapes are caused by ice in the soil reacting to major temperature changes. The top of the soil has a crust. The microscope showed that the soil is composed of flat particles (probably a type of clay) and rounded particles. When the soil is scooped up, it clumps together. Although other landers in other places on Mars have seen many ripples and dunes, no ripples or dunes are visible in the area of Phoenix. Ice is present a few inches below the surface in the middle of the polygons. Along the edge of the polygons the ice is at least 8 inches deep. When the ice is exposed to the Martian atmosphere it slowly disappears. In the winter there would be accumulations of snow on the surface.

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