Large sheets of ice may have been spotted on Mars

Posted January 13, 2018

A Flagstaff geologist found eight massive ice sheets on the planet Mars, using images from a NASA spacecraft.

For years, researchers have been striving to find accessible, "drinkable" water on Mars. According to an in-depth analysis led by the USGS, the images reveal never-before-observed details about the ice sheets, including that some begin just a few feet below the Martian surface and extend to depths greater than 300 feet. The frozen water deposits were found in eight different regions of the planet where eroding slopes have exposed them.

This high-resolution HiRISE image shows an icy scarp on Mars in the context of a broader area.

Then in 2016, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter discovered the water ice exposed by the erosion in the mid-latitudes of Mars. Geological Survey researchers allegedly observed large, steep cross-sections of water in the form of ice under the surface of Mars.

In 2016, a NASA study said ice may yield more water per scoop than minerals, which means the H20 could be more hard to access.

Some of that ice is sticking out above the surface where it's combined with rocks and dust, making the ice a prime target for future lander missions.

While he didn't participate in this study, he noted that the findings mentioned in Dundas's paper were of a completely different color than "normal" findings.

'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, ' said Byrne. Dundas and co-authors say that banding and color variations apparent in some of the scarps suggest layers "possibly deposited with changes in the proportion of ice and dust under varying climate conditions". Although previous studies made scientists ware of the ice deposits on the ice, the latest study can provide vital information about the thickness, layering, and purity of ice on the red planet. Thick sheets of ice have been found beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

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). Dundas is also one of the authors of a report published Thursday in the journal Science.

'It's part of the whole story of what happens to water on Mars over time: Where does it go?

In other words, the prospect of a number of glaciers of pure ice just below the surface of Mars is a big deal because they could function as both wells and fueling stations for future human activity. The slopes are probably being continuously exposed as the ice sublimates into the Martian atmosphere, likely to cycle up to the poles and end up frozen there. We expect the vertical structure of Martian ice-rich deposits to preserve a record of ice deposition and past climate.