Some high-latitude areas on Mars (left) and Earth (right) exhibit similarly patterned ground where shallow fracturing has drawn polygons on the surface.
This patterning may result from cycles of contraction and expansion.
The left image shows ground within the targeted landing area NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander before the winter frost had entirely disappeared from the surface.
The bright ice in shallow crevices accentuates the area's polygonal fracturing pattern. The polygons are a few meters (several feet) across.
The image is a small portion of an exposure taken in March 2008 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The image on the right is an aerial view of similarly patterned ground in Antarctica.
The Phoenix Mission is led by the University of Arizona on behalf of NASA. Project management of the mission is by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Spacecraft development is by Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the instrument was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.
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.