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Scientists Find Thick Ice Below the Surface of Mars

Scientists Find Thick Ice Below the Surface of Mars

The big takeaway from the find is that we now know at least eight sites where underground ice is accessible, providing a potential reservoir of water, necessary for human expeditions to the planet.

Thanks to erosion wearing away surface rock on Mars, scientists using NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have spotted thick deposits of ice in the planet's mid-latitudes that extend hundreds of feet deep. And we need water ice on Mars because we can combine it with the Carbon dioxide that's very abundant in the atmosphere, and that gives us two very important things for future manned habitability of Mars.

"There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars", said the study's lead author, Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. Mars even has polar ice caps.

"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", Dundas said. The scientists who tend that instrument spotted patches of blue on the red planet, chose to look more closely and eventually found eight patches of ice. He found thick sheets of almost pure water ice, exposed to the surface by erosion on steep cliffs. Imaging with a spectrograph provided evidence of water at the Martian surface in the region, reinforcing the idea that this could be ice. What's more, bands and variations in color suggest that the ice contains distinct layers, which could be used to understand changes in Mars' climate over time (the ice sheets themselves likely formed as snow accumulated over time).

Images obtained by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have helped researchers locate traces of ice cropping out in small craters, glaciers and ice sheets.

"If the conclusions of the paper are correct", he said, "you're looking at something that's nearly pure ice".




In today's issue of Science, researchers are reporting the likely presence of ice sheets in more temperate regions. The research found eight different pockets of ice of varying size not far below the planet's surface.

"Mars is not the dry, arid planet it was thought of in the past".

"In many ways, water is the key resource: Humans need liquid water biologically, water can be processed to provide oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for energy generation and even rocket fuel". The ice sheets are found 55 to 60 degrees north or south of the equator where temperatures can drop extremely low, making it hard for future astronauts to gain access to them.

Planetary scientists around the world are finding hope in that this could, in fact, be the clue to pure ice.

In addition to helping humans visit Mars, the ice could also tell us tales about the past Martian climate if we were able to drill a core from one of the hidden glaciers and study it. They found out three dimensional structure of massive ice deposits on Mars.


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