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LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Scientists believe NASA's Phoenix Mars lander exposed bits of ice while recently digging a trench in the soil of the Martian arctic, the mission's principal investigator said Thursday.
Trenches excavated by the lander's robotic arm have turned up white material mixed in with the reddish dirt.
Crumbs of bright material initially photographed in the trench later vanished, meaning they must have been frozen water that vaporized after being exposed, Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said in a statement.
"These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice," Smith said.
"There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can't do that."