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A laser beam from the Canadian-built lidar instrument on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander can be seen in this contrast-enhanced sequence of 10 images taken by Phoenix's Surface Stereo Imager on July 26, 2008, during early Martian morning hours of the mission's 61st Martian day after landing.
The view is almost straight up and includes about 1.5 kilometer (about 1 mile) of the length of the beam. The camera, from its position close to the lidar on the lander deck, took the images through a green filter centered on light with wavelength 532 nanometers, the same wavelength of the laser beam. The movie has been artificially colored to to approximately match the color that would be seen looking through this filter on Mars. Contrast is enhanced to make the beam more visible.
The lidar beam can be seen extending from the lower right to the upper right, near the zenith, as it reflects off particles suspended in the atmosphere. Particles that scatter the beam directly into the camera can be seen to produce brief sparkles of light. In the background, dust can be seen drifting across the sky pushed by winds aloft.
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.
Photojournal Note: As planned, the Phoenix lander, which landed May 25, 2008 23:53 UTC, ended communications in November 2008, about six months after landing, when its solar panels ceased operating in the dark Martian winter.