Steep slopes on Mars reveal structure of buried ice

13 January, 2018, 15:39 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • 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

(We've previously known about shallow subsurface ice from multiple lines of evidence). I think it's sort of a game-changer.

The frozen water near the Martian surface was detected using images from NASA spacecraft Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter now orbiting Mars.

Finding water or ice on Mars is becoming fairly commonplace these days, but this is a new one: researchers are reporting that they've spotted tall cliffs, up to 100 metres high, made of almost pure water ice in several locations on Mars!

The pictures sent back to Earth by MRO showed a more detailed cross-section view of thick ice sheets below a layer of ice-cemented rock and dust on Mars' surface.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been circling the Red Planet for over 10 years now, sending back wonderful pictures of the Martian surface, using its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. Radio scans by MRO suggest existence of thick, buried ice along the planet's middle latitudes.

Scientists were astonished to discover that Mars' mid-latitudes contained pure water ice.

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Colin Dundas, research geologist who led the study said "it was surprising to find ice exposed at the surface at these places".

The ice sheets which appeared bluish in the high-resolution images, looked like steep cliffs of glaciers, up to 100 meters tall.

"The ice is concentrated in layered deposits at the poles, and also found in the shallow sub-surface at middle latitudes, as in our study".

"Here we have what we think is nearly pure water ice buried just below the surface". It is also possible that layers of snow were compressed every climate cycle, resulting to the building deposits of ice over time. "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".

This exposed ice is slowly sublimating away, turning directly from solid to vapour, because even though temperatures on Mars are well below freezing, the air pressure is too thin for the ice to hold its solid shape. However, in a game-changing development, scientists have discovered huge ice sheets on Mars and they believe that it could provide an unlimited supply of water for the humans. Scientists have raised the possibility that the thick ice sheets could become potential accessible source of water for future scientific exploration and visit to Mars. It will also help NASA and other agencies plan upcoming rover and human missions to Mars.

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