Mars lander Phoenix probes first microscope sample of soil

The Phoenix lander sent back the most detailed view of the Martian soil to date, showing clumps of fine grains mixed with possible minerals, scientists said Friday. Much of the dirt that Phoenix scooped up and sprinkled on its microscope appeared as a reddish-orange hue that's typical of the Martian landscape. Zooming in, scientists noticed green particles that could be olivine, a mineral usually associated with volcanic eruptions. The soil also contained round, black glassy specks that could be volcanic glass, said mission scientist Tom Pike of the Imperial College in London. It is too early to make any generalizations about Phoenix's landing site, but scientists were intrigued by the latest images.