Scientists Have Discovered Massive Ice Sheets on Mars

Scientists Have Discovered Massive Ice Sheets on Mars

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 U.S. journal Science.

Although water ice deposits are known to exist from previous Mars missions, this new study analyzed the vertical structure and thickness of ice sheets using high-resolution imagery and topography from the HiRISE instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

For any future mission to Mars, finding water is critical.

A wider image of an ice scarp showing color-enhanced region.

The newfound sheets appear to contain distinct layers, suggesting that studying them could shed considerable light on the Red Planet's climate history, researchers said.

"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 told Space.com.

We've found ice on Mars before.

NASA scientists discovered eight instances of ice exposed on the Martian surface.




Researchers believe the ice formed relatively recently, because the sites appear smooth on the surface, unpocked by craters that would be formed by celestial debris smashing into the planet over time. Beneath its ruddy layer of dirt is a sheet of ice 300 feet thick that gives the landscape a blue-black hue.

UNDERGROUND ice supplies have been discovered on Mars which could provide unlimited water for humans looking to colonise the Red Planet. In 2001, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft arrived at the planet and began snooping for chemical signatures of ice. Streaks on images of the surface of Mars, thought to be water, were a year ago revealed to be just drifts of sand.

Further examination of the scarps that have been exposed to Mars' atmosphere by the MRO's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer confirms that the bright material initially detected is indeed frozen water.

"[The melting ice could] potentially expose new bits of ice and possibly be a very interesting place to look for new evidence of life, either in the recent geological past or even living today on Mars".

Thick bands of ice (blue) spotted in Martian cliff faces.

It is estimated that almost one-third of Mars surface has ice just below its surface. Continuing to study those sheets could help researchers learn more about the climate history of the planet.

"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. The scarps are actively retreating because of sublimation of the exposed water ice.

According to the research paper, "The ice exposed by the scarps likely originated as snow that transformed into massive ice sheets, now preserved beneath less than 1 to 2 [meters] of dry and ice-cemented dust or regolith near ±55° latitude".

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