Science

Scientists Discovered Large Sheets Of Water Ice On Mars

Many scientists are looking forward to colonizing the Red Planet in the future. Both the Chinese and the UAE space agency are looking forward to growing plants on Mars. Also, Elon Musk is pretty optimistic about going to visit Mars. Still in order for that to happen, the planet needs to be habitable, and water is one of the main ingredients for life on a planet. Now, according to a new study published on Jan. 11 in the journal Science, scientists have found big sheets of water ice on Mars.

Sheets Of Water Ice On Mars
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

According to the study, the sheets are located beneath the surface and they contain distinct layers. Continuing to study those sheets could help researchers learn more about the climate history of the planet. Interestingly, the sheets of water ice on Mars are located under just a few feet of dirt in places. In the future, if there will be crewed missions, those sheets could be easily accessible.

“I’m not familiar with resource-extraction technology, but this may be information that’s useful to people who are,” study lead author Colin Dundas, of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, told Space.com.

Sheets Of Water Ice On Mars are pretty close to the surface

Dundas along with his colleagues took a look at the photos which were captured over the years by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, located on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). They sequenced eight locations where erosion revealed the sheets. Some of the sheets of water ice on Mars are 330 feet deep or more into the subsurface.

According to the research, they are steep sites, located in the midaltitudes between about 55 and 60 degrees north and south of the equator. There are very few craters in these areas, suggesting that the sheets of ice water on Mars are young in terms of geology, according to Space.com.

“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. “So, what we may be seeing is evidence of that having happened in the past.”

Finding water ice under the surface of Mars is not new to scientists. The Shallow Radar of the MRO found a buried ice layer, which is large enough to cover the state of New Mexico. Still, the newly sequenced HiRISE data provides researchers with more details regarding the ice sheets.

“The take-home message is, these are nice exposures that teach us about the 3D structure of the ice, including that the ice sheets begin shallowly, and also that there are fine layers,” Dundas added.

In the future, explorers of the Red Planet will need to know more about the ice, according to the authors. That includes knowledge of the depth, strength, and purity of the ice.

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