Scientists spot massive ice deposits on Mars

Posted January 13, 2018

However, once the buried ice becomes exposed to Mars" atmosphere, a scarp likely grows wider and taller as it "retreats, ' due to sublimation of the ice directly from solid form into water vapor. For one, the deposits of ice could shed light on Mars' climate history.

NASA's Phoenix lander had also dug up some ice near the Martian north pole in 2008, however, it is not clear if that is part of the big sheet.

Balme noted that this find would also benefit potential future explorers, especially given the rapidly approaching Mars exploration deadlines of various countries around the world.

Researchers have known for decades that Mars has ice. We investigated eight of these locations and found that they expose deposits of water ice that can be 100 meters thick, extending downward from depths as shallow as 1 to 2 meters below the surface.

"Mars is not the dry, arid planet it was thought of in the past". As much as a third of the Martian surface contains shallow ice. Their lower reaches were covered in rubble, making it hard to determine the total thickness of any ice deposits. "A check of the surface temperature using Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera helped researchers determine they're not seeing just thin frost covering the ground", explains NASA on their website.

The deposits were found at seven geological formations called scarps, with slopes up to 55 degrees, in the southern hemisphere and one in the northern hemisphere.

Ice cliffs spotted on Mars

The rust-colored world is known for its oxidized look, but if you dig down into the dirt, Mars gets a lot more interesting. That's thick enough for the orbiting camera to resolve different colored bands within the material. A lack of craters indicates that some of that history could be quite recent.

The ice probably started as snowfall that compacted into massive fractured layers. Such details suggest ice layers with different proportions of ice and dust that could have formed under varying climate conditions. The scientists identified eighth such deposits of ice sheet exposed by erosions. All a thirsty astronaut would have to do would be to go at the scarp with a hammer and, presto, fresh Martian ice chips. They sequenced eight locations where erosion revealed the sheets. An analysis of the scarps revealed that thick ice hides just below the surface. Radar studies of the subsurface have found features that have been interpreted as dust and rock covered glaciers and some indications of ice sheets in other areas of the Red Planet.

'You don't see a high-tech solution, ' Byrne added.

Although ice has always been known to exist on Mars, a better understanding of its depth and location could be vital to future human explorers, said the report in the USA journal Science.

In 2016, a NASA study said ice may yield more water per scoop than minerals, which means the H20 could be more hard to access.

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