There is an AFM image up at the NASA Phoenix site. Must be preparing for a press release.

Here's an example image of a bacterium from Lake Vostok in the Antarctic taken with an AFM.

Hi Barsoomer

Nice AFM and SEM images above. Was looking at the OM from which the first AFM was scanned. The image is of very high resolution and makes one realise how very degraded the published OM raws are. There are a number of particles, which, with the better resolution, might be geological or even biological based on their shape, smoothness, aggregation, etc.

Hope the astrobiologists on the team can get them to look at some of those particles. I read somewhere that they are suggesting that the AFM imaged particle is a clay particle. That's interesting of itself.

Below is a marked up copy of the mosaic sol 38/69 OM, most of the raws of which were not released, with green arrows pointed at particles, some of which, I think should, if time and resources allow, be looked at more closely.


Hi Winston,

Yes, those targets look like very promising candidates for further inspection.

Interesting article here

that includes a discussion of the resolutions available for both the OM and AFM.

Here is a recolorization of the AFM to highlight the area around the "dust":

Er, why was the data truncated in the lower left -- er, just where the "dust" is located?

I made some more observations in the Flickr comments.

This image has a Location link to the OM pan, downloaded from the official 32MBYTE TIF version and slightly adjusted in contrast and brigthess.

Winston, this one is not im my collection and none of the features match similar images. Did I miss it while I was "on vacation"?

( Reminds me of a famous Mose Allison song -- Your mind is on vacation and your mouth is working overtime )

I don't understand that AFM image. Where exactly is the "dust" that was supposedly captured? Hopefully, there will be more, clearer images following this one.

Hi Hort

re. your reply #4. Daniel Parrat reported that the first image scanned by the AFM was the sol 64 image that had been deposited on the substrate on sol 38 (I think). I somehow got that all wrong and substituted sol 68 for 64. The NASA press release image was from neither sol 64 nor 68. Emily Lackadawalla reported that Tom Pike told her that the image was from the sol 69 releases but few of the particles on the sol 69 release seemed to match the released image. It seems that either there was another unreleased sol 69 image or the particles on the released sol 69 image were well and truly moved around by the AFM process. There are indeed a few of the larger particles that seem to match somewhat but most of even those particles are distorted or otherwise changed.

This is probably quite understandable given the process that Brian explained for us for the positioning of the rotating and twisting stage for OM and AFM processing.

Those particles are just not steady.

JupiterKid; I think that the "dust" is only partially shown in the press release image. It is the relatively large featureless red object on the lower left side of the cavity on the extreme left. The other three cavities are unpopulated and one can see the bottoms of the holes. The hole with the "dust" particle only shows a small portion of the wall of the cavity on the upper right portion of that cavity.

The Daniel Parrat article indicates that there are a number of other particles that were imaged by the AFM. I also hope that they are much clearer than this first one.



I just read the comments to your Flickr image. I think I agree with you that it seems that more has been done to obscure the "dust" spot in the Press release image than enhance it. I hope the other Phoenix AFM releases are much better than this. Note that Barsoomer's AFM image of a bacterial rod is significantly clearer and shows what the AFM is capable of doing.


Hi Barsoomer

I just checked out the reference in your reply #3. Nice Article and it reflects what I've been basically saying from the start of the Phoenix landing but not as explicitly or elegantly as they did.

I think that one of the areas that the article did not point out was the quite heavy use of extra-visual spectra images that could also give some indication of life. It is a pity however that the TEGA instrument will probably not be capable of capturing Organics.

Brian; It would be interesting to get your take on the article referenced in Barsoomer's reply #3.


Er, I don't think it is possible to see the "dust" of the AFM in the OM. The AFM view is 100x smaller than the OM view and the "hole" spacing corresponds to about 2 pixels in the OM, so the "dust" ( 1/2 a hole wide? )is about 1/10 of that -- 1/5 of a pixel -- or less than a pixel in the 4x version of the OM provided by NASA.

The hole spacings are just visible on the 4X version - about 10 pixels apart.

I looked very, very carefully in the 4X version around the indicated AFM location and all I can say is there are no "big" ( a few pixels ) objects that would invalidate the claim.

I wonder how they actually know where AFM is scanning?

The positioning information of the stage does not seem accurate enough to actually say where it is to within more than a few 10 of microns. ( an OM pixel is 2 microns ).

The best AFM / OM position accuracy would be about a "hole" apart.

The actual image was most likely accidental during the numerous tests to get the damn thing working.

The marvel is not how well the bear dances but that it dances at all.

Regarding "matching" the AFM OM image with previous images...

I don't think you have to look closely to match it -- just look at the left side of the panorama and see how much of the sample wheel was included in the leftmost image.

I can't find anything that matches this position.

That's why I think it and the AFM scan are previous to sol 52 - before the internet pipes were unclogged.

< dark thoughts >

I think there is a lot of, er, lying by omission going on in the mission. I am again strangely comforted by this speculation.

I can only hope that the mission scientists are "going along" with this in the belief that the truth will out in the end. ( This may be a nobile lie on my part.)

</ dark thoughts >

Reference your 8, despite the use of Shana Dale's name in the link and at the top of the article page, the article has nothing to do with her. It was in fact a blog by a philosophy teacher so I am not certain of the depth of his argument.

I have found a number of articles and technical descriptions on the OM claiming either 8 microns or 4 microns per pixel. an example of each below. Hort now states 2 microns? Regardless good resolution.

If a microscopic fossil happens to be in the sample then yes, it could be identified. Chances of this occurring infinitesimal. So how does this contradict the lead in to the article that,quote 'scientists conducting the show are claiming that their instruments are only looking for environments suitable for microbial life on Mars, not for evidence of life on Mars'?

I don't agree with Hort's lying by ommission. They need to correlate a whole host of data before writing papers or giving press releases. Else the fringe media have a field day and dilute the real value of any finds. Lets face it. They analysed for 2 years before releasing data on the Mars Meteorite, and then subsequently wished that they had analysed for 2 years more.

With the dust particle image this is a pretty picture. It is the data strings that will tell the story of what the surface of the particle is like, not a quick visual image.

Er, Brian, thanks for catching the OM resolution error. I am so used to working with the 2X versions of the OM images I think of them as 512x1024 -- but in fact they are indeed about 4 microns per pixel before 2X scaling.

Re the AFM image...

There may very well be a good technical reason for the truncation of the data in the upper left of the image. I would hope that it would be provided along with the image -- but it wasn't.

Perhaps the reason is "too techhical" for us simpletons who notice the perfectly flat plane in the image which just happens to cut off the most interesting part of the image.

I am hoping that it is simply an imperfect image rushed out the door to satisfy the media ( yeah, right ), but until I hear otherwise my distrust grows.

I too hope that I am wrong about official lies by omission -- but I have to be honest and raise the issue on the basis of my perceptions of what is missing in this image -- the missing raw OMs -- the missing WCL results -- the missing TEGA results the missing honesty ( damn if I know what it is -- but it sure is interesting ).

OK, you say, give'm 2 or 4 or 8 YEARS to analyze the data and reach their conclusions and publish their papers and advance their careers and raise their babies - but in the meantime contol any possible misinterpretation of the data funded by public monies by sitting on it until the airtight case against the "loonies" has been built.

Er, why should the scientific establishment give a fig about what the "fringe" media reports? ( Elvis sighted near pyramid on Mars! )

Science needs to be 100% totally transparent to succeed against the forces of irrationality. Hiding information out of fear rather than sharing it with openness is anti-science.

The Arizoa St colourisation is a little easier on the eyes
They seem to have terminated graphing once the dust image was plotted leaving the smooth section for visual completeness. I agree it was probably a desire to get an image out after so many delays.

I don't believe in consiracy theories or with respect to Mars missions. I also do not believe that the release of immature and incomplete data is good science. Detailed analysis followed by peer review before release - way to go.


Is that it? One blurry image of a speck of dust? Why are the raw AFM images not released the same way as the OM images? Or are they still having trouble getting the thing to work?

Reply 15 I think it maybe all of the above, it could be that they will take their time before letting the world see everything. It will be a bit frustrating to have to wait years for the results and the tasty data as in reply 12

A general link for basics of the machine. A large population may eventually be scanned, once they decide the 'cling; factor danger involved. They have to 'drop', or break off a dirty cantilever tip when they sense one, and that seems to be the real danger of fast forward in sample taking. See the animations most especially.
Hoping this isn't a repeat of other links offered thus far by other blog contributors. I haven't seen it here as yet. These are unusual devices for most of us. Very small, and difficult to 0use in a dirty envoronment, I imagine.
Basics of the AFM.

A small gallery of CFM images, similar to AFM, in a range of scale that could show items between the OM and AFM devices, to show how difficult an ID process would be based on visual shaping.
Here is a readout of the monthly identification contest at a nano-imaging and equipment vendor, where professionals in the industry, and perhaps other, try to provide their expertise in experiencing the images over time, and with years of training/education. In this thumbnail list is FeOOH elongate rod-like shapes at very small size, and Calcite narrow blades which are generally not so thin when at larger sizes.
What were we given in the various OM and AFM initial images from Phoenix? I would be guessing without other test results for each item.
Perhaps they need a transport bed for sample particles, with a series of testing stops along the path. A micron, or twenty microns at a stretch, they could roll the particles through a series of imagers and instruments. Just a thought after trying to use visual clues on these collection plate sections on the large wheel.
A reference particle from the OM view, as I showed it in the topic by Horton detailing the OM images. This looks somewhat like an AFM tip but lacks real detail and edge sharpness. The cropped particle was extracted from one of Hortons beautiful color OM mosaic images. In the processing of the image in a 3D visualization software package used for displaying AFM particles, I dropped the color and added an artificial color mix. I'll rework it in original colors eventually. This may work for many of the OM particles.

My alteration of the Horton original to a tonal range to fit the software, and giving the darker aspects a brighter 3D impression as the actual particle existed. This image was largely back-lit.



A link for the software which can be downloaded for personal, non-commercial, evaluation use. The rather lengthy menu listings take some time to digest, and small images can be saved permanently for personal evaluation and comparison use. I'm sure we'll be seeing some images like these soon in research papers about the Phoenix particle results. This is a great software package, for those with the inclination to try, evaluate, and purchase. Perhaps very useful in MER imaging as well, although not designed for that use specifically. Be sure to use the second link here to read all the limitations and descriptive aspects of the package before simply attempting to install this. It has worked great for myself, and I'm hoping it may help some others working here. on marsroverblog.
Can anyone ID this item as other than a lost cantilever tip from a AFM device?
Has an ID been issued as yet?

A couple of AFM images were shown at the press conference today, as evidence for phyllosilicate clays. Apparently, they have a dozen or more AFM images.