This color image is a three dimensional (3D) view of a digital elevation map of a sample collected by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander's Atomic Force Microscope (AFM).
The image shows four round pits, only 5 microns in depth, that were micromachined into the silicon substrate, which is the background plane shown in red. This image has been processed to reflect the levelness of the substrate.
A Martian particle —only one micrometer, or one millionth of a meter, across —is held in the upper left pit.
The rounded particle —shown at the highest magnification ever seen from another world —is a particle of the dust that cloaks Mars. Such dust particles color the Martian sky pink, feed storms that regularly envelop the planet and produce Mars' distinctive red soil.
The particle was part of a sample informally called "Sorceress" delivered to the AFM on the 38th Martian day, or sol, of the mission (July 2, 2008). The AFM is part of Phoenix's microscopic station called MECA, or the Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer.
The AFM was developed by a Swiss-led consortium, with Imperial College London producing the silicon substrate that holds sampled particles.
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.