Latest reports confirm that scientists have discovered a gigantic ice deposit on Mars, just above the surface. It contains about the same quantity of water as found in Lake Superior. Moreover, a team of researchers has determined that the ice deposit is bigger than New Mexico, lying from anywhere between 3 and 33 feet beneath the surface.
Hence, the extraordinary discovery opens some new interesting possibilities for future Mars explorations.
“This deposit is probably more accessible than most water ice on Mars”, says Jack Holt of the University of Texas and co-author of the study.
Mainly because the ice deposit lies in a flat, smooth area where astronauts can reach easily.
Cassie Stuurman of the Institute for Geophysics put together a team of researchers with the sole purpose of scanning Mars’ Utopia Planitia region for water deposits. For this purpose, they used a powerful ground-penetrating Shallow Radar (SHARAD), aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The team was looking for water in the Utopia Planitia region because the landscape is quite similar to our own Canadian Arctic with scalloped depressions.
Upon gathering the data provided by SHARAD, the team of researchers was able to confirm that the ice deposit was lying between 49 and 49 degrees north latitude. Furthermore, the ice deposit is also 260 to 560 feet thick and made up of 50 to 85 percent water ice, according to the scientists. The remaining ratio consists mainly of dirt, rocks, and other debris.
The most interesting fact about SHARAD is that it is capable of distinguishing between liquid and frozen water. Moreover, the data pulled by the researchers indicate that all of the Utopia Planitia water is in a frozen state, at the moment. As a result, the scientists feel some degree of disappointment when it comes to finding evidence of life on Mars, since organisms need liquid water to survive.
Furthermore, the study shows that there may have been melting in the past. Researchers agree that if this ever occurred it is most likely to have happened when Mars’ poles were tilted at a different angle.
Cassie Stuurman believes that the ice deposit formed when large quantities of snow accumulated at middle latitudes, rather than the Martian poles. Hence, future study of the gigantic ice deposit could provide more insight as far as changes in the Martian climate over the ages are concerned.
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