The color composite image on the right was acquired by the Optical Microscope, a part of the Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) instrument suite on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander.
The image was taken on the ninth Martian day of the mission, or Sol 9 (June 3, 2008). Comparison with a black-and-white image (left) acquired during Phoenix's flight from Earth to Mars, identifies new particles deposited during the landing event. The particles are presumably samples from the Martian surface, although contamination from the lander itself cannot be ruled out. Most particles are the typical reddish-brown of the Martian surface, but some are translucent.
The particles are on a silcone substrate target 3 millimeters (0.12 inch) in diameter, which provides a sticky surface for holding the particles while the microscope images them. Blow-ups of four of the larger particles are shown in the center. These particles range in size from about 30 microns to 150 microns (from about one one-thousandth of an inch to six one-thousandths of an inch).
The Phoenix Mission is led by the University of Arizona, Tucson, on behalf of NASA. Project management of the mission is by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Spacecraft development is by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona