Published: Mon, January 15, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Multiple sites rich in water ice found on Mars

Multiple sites rich in water ice found on Mars

Eight scarps, with slopes as steep as 55 degrees, reveal new information about the internal layered structure of previously detected underground ice sheets in Mars' middle latitudes, the USA space agency said. "It's like having one of those ant farms where you can see through the glass on the side to learn about what's usually hidden beneath the ground". The ice is a critical target for science and exploration: it affects modern geomorphology, is expected to preserve a record of climate history, influences the planet's habitability, and may be a potential resource for future exploration.

The authors of the study have said that the latest discovery will be helpful for the establishment of a base on the Red Planet, as the water could be used for drinking, potentially create oxygen and fuel.

It's been a generally-agreed fact for years that Mars is hiding significant ice deposits.

Water ice was already known to be present in some places on Mars. (We've previously known about shallow subsurface ice from multiple lines of evidence). Now, Colin Dundas and colleagues have pinpointed eight locations, using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), where steep, pole-facing slopes created by erosion expose substantial quantities of sub-surface ice.

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The ice sheets deposits were found at the geological formations with latitudes of around 55 degrees to 58 degrees located in the southern and northern hemisphere. Furthermore, they think it has formed relatively recently, and is also far more extensive than what has been detected in the study. The ice cliffs provide a cross-section of the climate over the ages, much like the rings in a tree.

"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.

Shane Byrne, of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Tucson, a co-author on the report, said: "Previous ideas for extracting human-usable water from Mars were to pull it from the very dry atmosphere or to break down water-containing rocks".

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