Researchers Find Thick Sheets of Ice Hiding Under Martian Surface

Multiple sites rich in water ice found on Mars

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The sheer size of the ice sheets could help scientists better understand the history of Mars and its climate, NASA said in a new report. This means that relatively pure water ice, capped by only a thin layer of ice-cemented rock and dust, may be readily accessible to future exploration missions.

"There've been suggestions that, when there's high obliquity, the poles get heated a lot-they're tilted over and pointed more at the sun, and so that redistributes ice toward the midlatitudes", Colin Dundas, of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Arizona told Wall of

As reported in the journal Science (paywall), the water was found in both the north and south of Mars, at latitudes equivalent to South America and Scotland. They hold clues about Mars' climate history. An analysis of the scarps revealed that thick ice hides just below the surface.

The ice sheets extend from just below the surface to a depth of 100 meters or more and appear to contain distinct layers.

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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.

A radar instrument on the MRO previously detected signatures of thick, buried ice across the planet's belly, however, this latest study indicates a greater prevalence of Martian ice.

'What we've seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3-D view with more detail than ever before'. The new study focused in on eight spots around the middle latitudes of Mars where these ice sheets were exposed to the surface as eroded slopes, called scarps. "You don't see a high-tech solution", Byrne added.

It is estimated that almost one-third of Mars surface has ice just below its surface.

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For the study, Dundas and his team analyzed high-resolution images taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera fitted on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA.

"Examination of some of the scarps with MRO's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) confirmed that the bright material is frozen water".

MRO brought us even more evidence of ice on Mars in the past: pools of (what appears to be) pure ice, puddled on the floors of fresh meteorite craters. "You can go out with a bucket and shovel and just collect as much water as you need".

"If we were to send humans to live on Mars for a substantial period of time, it would be a fantastic source of water", Matt Balme, a planetary scientist in Britain, said. They found out three dimensional structure of massive ice deposits on Mars. The scarps are actively retreating because of sublimation of the exposed water ice. Terrestrial ice deposits are often mined to see what lies within, so perhaps one day we'll have the chance to sample Martian ice too.

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