Scientists Have Discovered Massive Ice Sheets on Mars


That is much shallower than what researchers have shown before.

Satellite imaging has confirmed that vast glaciers of ice exist just a metre below the surface, and continue to a depth of a hundred metres or more below that. "The detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks", Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology noted at the time.

Researchers already knew that Mars harbors subsurface water ice, and lots of it. This latest study may finally be the confirmation we've been looking for.

These images released by NASA show the surface of Mars.

Images captured by the MRO were taken over the course of three Martian years, or about 5 years and 7 months in Earth time. In any case, Dundas says that "at these areas its a significant thick ice sheet of rather clean ice". The scientists identified eighth such deposits of ice sheet exposed by erosions. A lack of craters indicates that some of that history could be quite recent. Furthermore, they think it has formed relatively recently, and is far more extensive than what has been detected in the study. "The presence of banding and color variations suggest layers", they argue, "possibly deposited with changes in the proportion of ice and dust under varying climate conditions".

Blocks falling from an ice-rich scarp, suggestive of erosion. "The imagery results are especially compelling, and you can see the ice right there in the enhanced colour images".

The researchers investigated eight locations on Mars and found thick deposits cover broad regions of the Martian mid-latitudes with a smooth mantle. "But now thanks to CRISM spectral data and colour data from the HiRISE camera, we can actually see the signature of the water ice". Then we have some pretty exciting news for you.

Scientists hope that the ice sheets' proximity to the surface will facilitate their being studied using robots.

That said, it may not be all that easy to access the ice found in the new study.

"One of the most interesting observations was seeing boulders fall out at one scarp, which suggested that it's actively sublimating or retreating, and also helped confirm that it was exposed ice and not surface frost", Dundas said. "These would make excellent candidates for human exploitation, should we ever go there". And that ice could be used as a potential resource by future visitors.

There have likewise been noteworthy inquiries regarding how unadulterated Mars ice is.