3D scans reveal huge underground ice sheets on Mars
3D scans reveal huge underground ice sheets on Mars
Mars captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Space Telescope Science Institute
12 January, 2018, 07:07
"There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars", he said. In 2020, both the NASA Mars 2020 rover and the ExoMars rover will set out for the Red Planet in search of signs of ancient life.
"It's like having one of those ant farms where you can see through the glass on the side to learn about what's usually hidden beneath the ground", the paper's co-author Shane Byrne said in a statement.
If there is a relatively large cache of ice just under the Martian surface, as this study - which is based on data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) - suggests, it could help any future explorers who would want to use utilize it fuel or even just water. Furthermore, some of these massive ice deposits were found to be more than 330 feet (100 meters) thick.
Analyzing these features with a filter that accentuates colors, a team of researchers saw something notable for the Red Planet: a number of them had a distinctively blue color.
In 2011, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sent back images of odd dark streaks on some slopes of Mars, news that reverberated throughout the scientific community, many members of which postulated that the geological feature could be a sign of flowing water. "Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need", Byrne said.
These ice sheets have scientific value beyond just hydrating the first Martian settlers.
There have likewise been noteworthy inquiries regarding how unadulterated Mars ice is.
While scientists have known that Mars is a pretty icy place for years, the new study helps confirm exactly where those ice sheets exist on the red planet.
This research benefited from coordinated use of multiple instruments on Mars orbiters, plus the longevities at Mars now exceeding 11 years for MRO and 16 years for Odyssey. The regions will also make it much easier to get samples for learning about Mars' climate history. The slopes are probably being continuously exposed as the ice sublimates into the Martian atmosphere, likely to cycle up to the poles and end up frozen there.
Dundas said the water ice deposits could potentially be used as a resource for further exploration of the planet.
The eight sites featured in the new study include steep banks where, much like cutting into a cake, erosion has exposed layers of rock and ice that MRO could see from overhead.
The ice probably started as snowfall that compacted into massive fractured layers. We expect the vertical structure of Martian ice-rich deposits to preserve a record of ice deposition and past climate.
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