Click on image to view the animation
The Surface Stereo Imager camera aboard NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander acquired a series of images of the laser beam in the Martian night sky. Bright spots in the beam are reflections from ice crystals in the low level ice-fog. The brighter area at the top of the beam is due to enhanced scattering of the laser light in a cloud. The Canadian-built lidar instrument emits pulses of laser light and records what is scattered back.
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.